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City: Brewery Development Proof that Arts are Economic Driver

Attracting a micro-brewery to the space currently occupied by Covington Arts and MKSK architects is proof that the arts can be an economic development driver for the city, Covington's arts manager said Monday.

Braxton Brewing Company announced this morning that it plans to open at 25 West Seventh Street in Downtown Covington in the fall of 2014.

"The announcement," arts manager Cate Yellig said, "proves arts and culture are an important way to attract new business to the city. One of the initial goals of the Covington Arts initiative was to establish an attractive venue to catalyze economic development. After eight years, the foresight of creating a venue driven by creativity and community has paid off with an exciting opportunity for the second and first floor development of the building on Seventh Street."

The development will likely force Covington Arts, previously known as the Artisan Enterprise Center, to relocate. According to information provided to The River City News from the City of Covington, the real estate transaction involving the brewery and its current owner, MKSK, is "in a period of due diligence" and could take a minimum of three months while possibly extending to the end of 2014.

"Covington Arts is currently working on a strategy to facilitate growth and manifest the arts and cultural programming it currently has in place," Yellig said.

When the Artisan Enterprise Center was developed inside a former Albers grocery store the Kentucky General Assembly allocated $450,000 for the renovations. A contingency of the lease agreement between the city and MKSK was that the city would be able to lease the space to cultivate art for twenty years.

Yellig said that in spite of the possible early exit from the space, the state is satisfied with the development and the terms of the original deal.

"The state’s position is, not only have the recipients of the funds met their goals, they have surpassed their expectations," Yellig said. "The main goals of the funding were to attract creative companies such as MKSK to the urban core, facilitate job creation, and develop unoccupied properties. The property will retain a creative company (MKSK), has additional built-out and leasable space on the second floor, and recruited a craft brewery."

The funds were awarded in 2006. The Artisan Enterprise Center opened a year later and was re-branded as Covington Arts in 2013. The original development of the Center was part of the city's failed attempt to grow an Arts & Technology District mostly along Pike Street. The effort did not work and the area was re-zoned to its original central business district status in 2012.

The arrival of a brewery amid nearby developments of a boutique hotel and upscale apartment building may be signs of a more effective effort to revitalize the city's Downtown. 

"What is truly exciting about this development is the new property owner plans to invest over one million dollars into the property, thus increasing the property tax base and the occupational tax base through retaining and attracting businesses," Yellig said. "Having the brewery on the first floor will add jobs and create a daily destination space for the region."

"All of these things bring more money to the City allowing us to provide more services to the community.  Lastly, this is proof that the Arts are an economic driver for the City by igniting space and allowing people to see the potential of what can be!"

Yellig is currently working to streamline the city's arts strategy with its economic development plans. "Right now we are working on a way to make sure the arts have a home and that they can help the city's development," she said.

"There will be a home for Covington Arts, it just remains to be selected yet."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said that Covington Arts is located in a former Sears location. That is not true. Covington Arts is located in the former Albers grocery store location. Sears was next door to the east. Additionally, there was no requirement attached to the state funds for the lease of space to the city. Rather, the city's lease agreement with MKSK mandated a twenty-year term for the arts office to be located there. If the property is sold, the lease is terminated, a city official told The River City News. The story has been corrected. RCN regrets the errors.

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