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Devou Events Center Proceeds, Gus Sheehan Park to Get Facelift

The Covington City Commission voted to proceed with design plans for a proposed events center in Devou Park.

The events center would be constructed near the site of the current club house which would be razed.

"If you've been in the Devou Park club house you probably know there needs to be a new golf club house," said Barbara Drees Jones, chair of Devou Properties, Inc., the organization that distributes a portion of profits generated by the Drees Pavilion to Devou Park projects. "Just doing repairs isn't going to help. A new building needs to be built."

A committee was formed to look at options with one task being the evaluation of a new club house. Since a new building needs to be constructed, the committee concluded, it was important to look at what others uses the structure could provide. A park welcome center, a bike shelter, and a cost-effective alternative to the posh Drees Pavilion were all placed on the table.

On Tuesday night, the city commission approved moving forward with a design plan to be created by Covington-based Hub + Weber Architects, though that decision does not commit the city to moving forward with construction. The design would be used to determine feasibility and costs.

This point in the process was reached after several meetings with stakeholders and residents of an adjacent Park Hills street where neighbors expressed concern about noise and crowd impact on their quiet neighborhood.

Following those meetings, a series of tweaks were made to the plans, said Bob Rothert of the Devou Park advisory committee. The number ten tee on the golf course would be relocated farther from Park Hills residences, a wall or vegetative fence would separate the facility from homes, and the site location would be moved fifty feet farther north of residents than originally planned.

The plans also remove a proposed events lawn and significantly reduced parking spaces while removing the need for the construction of a retaining wall. "This foot print is the minimum size we need in order for the (golf) cart storage to happen under the building," Rothert said.

The parking spaces would also be more elevated from where they are currently, said architect Gene Weber. "There's a number of benefits to that," he said. "You won't be looking directly at the parking and it allows you to look at more natural banks and landscaping and helps us deal with drainage. It also brings the grade much closer to the elevation of the new club house."

There were 146 parking spaces in the original plan, a number that has since been reduced to 105 for a building that is expected to have a capacity of between 150 and 200. There would also be 46 spaces for parking along the nearby street.
"I like it," said Mayor Sherry Carran. "It's been evolving from the get-go and each time you come up with a concept it's just a little better. It's good."
"I like the responsiveness over the months and years to the neighbors in Park Hills," said Commissioner Chuck Eilerman. "It's arguably made the experience of living near the Devou Park Club House better than it is currently." 
Commissioner Steve Frank, who has emerged as a critic of the plans, also voted with the rest of the commission to move forward to the next phase but expressed concern about the financial feasibility of the structure. He said he doesn't want to see the planned facility lose money the way the city-owned golf course had been before a private firm, Billy Casper Golf, took over management.
Drees Pavilion contributions allocated
The city commission also approved the use of Pavilion funds for other plans in the park.
$400,000 will be used in the next fiscal year. 
The bulk of that funding will go toward Gus Sheehan Park in Botany Hills which lost its pool and became virtually unusable for neighborhood kids in 2012. $140,000 will be used for phases one and two of that project.
Eilerman said he was particularly excited for that project in his home neighborhood, where the mayor also lives. He said that he and Carran came to Devou Properties, Inc. last year to discuss Sheehan Park's condition. "I'm encouraged by the pursuit of this in engaging a landscape architect," Eilerman said. "It's going to be a tremendous enhancement to that part of Covington."
Frank agreed. "My family is from West Covington and I know how much the kids value tat and really missed having a first class part right there. I really appreciate what you're doing," Frank said.
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
Photo: Gus Sheehan Park in 2012/RCN file