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Gateway College Closer to Beginning Construction in Downtown Covington

The City of Covington is expected to approve the issuance of industrial building revenue bonds for Gateway Community & Technical College Foundation, Inc to begin the construction phase of its urban campus in Downtown Covington.

The city commission heard a first reading of the ordinance on Tuesday night and will likely vote on the issue at its next meeting on June 11. The aggregate principal amount of the bonds is not to exceed $4.4 million.

"We'll be seeing hammers swinging at the Marx Building," said city commissioner Steve Frank, who also serves on the Gateway Foundation.

Gateway's purchase of the former Marx Furniture Building on Madison Avenue was announced in October when president & CEO Ed Hughes predicted that the repurposed building would be fully operational by late 2013 or early 2014. The building will be renamed the Gateway Technology & Design Center according to renderings.

The college has already shifted the programs that will be taught in the new building to Downtown Covington in a temporary set-up at the Odd Fellows Hall.

In all, Gateway is working toward the development of an $80 million campus in Downtown Covington, a move that is expected to bring upwards of 5,000 students to the urban core. In addition to the Marx Building and the former Two Rivers Middle School where Gateway currently houses its urban center, buildings slated for development or repurposing include the former Abode Furniture building on Scott Blvd (a health & wellness center), the former Citizens Bank building at the southeast corner of Madison & Pike (a Barnes & Noble college bookstore), the First United Methodist Church (the Kaleidoscope Center for Urban Outreach & Performing Arts), the former Senior Services Center on Fifth Street (a technical classroom center), the former YMCA on Madison Avenue (classrooms, workforce & child development center), The Point & former Mad Hatter concert venue on Scott Blvd (new construction, Science & Allied Health Center), and the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky (new construction, additional academic support).

(SEE: By the Numbers: Gateway College's Buildings in Downtown Covington)

Full plans for the urban campus were announced in November.

Hughes envisions a Downtown Covington that rivals the college community that sprung up around the Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia or the College of Charleston in South Carolina. "If you've been to Savannah, you know what this is going to look like," Hughes said in October. The urban campus "will have an impact in this community that goes beyond a six block radius."

Laura Cook Kroeger, Vice President for External Affairs at Gateway College and executive director of the Gateway Foundation, was present at Tuesday night's city commission meeting. "We want to get these services off the hill from that crumbling Covington campus and into the urban core of the river cities," she said. "The rush is, we just want to get started."

The execution of Gateway's full plans remains contingent on support from the Kentucky General Assembly which could dole out funding as early as 2014.

Covington finance director Bob Due explained that the issuance of the industrial building revenue bonds would not affect the city's finances. "This type of debt does not affect the city. It is the responsibility of the Gateway Foundation," Due said. He added that considering the importance of Gateway's plans to the revitalization of Downtown that it is important that the commission approve the bonds. 

Assistant city manager and city solicitor Frank Warnock pointed to previous examples in the city that utilized such bonds including Covington Latin School for its recent expansion.

As for the college's current site on Amsterdam Road, "When the old site is sold and redeveloped that will be good news for Covington, too," said city commissioner Chuck Eilerman.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Rendering of Gateway's plans for the former Marx Furniture Building/RCN file

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