Business Improvement District Could Advance - With City-Owned Properties
UPDATE: The River City News has learned that the Business Improvement District items have been removed from the agenda.
It has been nearly three years since the effort began to create a business improvement district (BID) in Downtown Covington.
Work really ramped up around the time of the release of the Center City Action Plan, a Downtown revitalization roadmap created by Denver-based Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA), which also studied the feasibility of a BID. Ultimately, PUMA said a BID could be supported in Downtown and in Mainstrasse Village.
While Mainstrasse is not part of the current effort, the Covington Business Council created the Urban Partnership which is leading the push for the BID, an area of Downtown that stretches from the Ohio River to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard mostly along Madison Avenue and includes some blocks of Scott Boulevard and Greenup Street.
In the proposed BID, owners of commercial real estate in the zone voluntarily add an additional tax on themselves that funds the Urban Partnership which would provide cleaning, maintenance, and promotional services. More than fifty percent of the properties representing more than fifty percent of the property value must sign on.
It has been a lengthy process. The Urban Partnership rolled out some cleaning crews for a year to demonstrate their worth, but ended the program when funding went away. Downtown Covington sidewalks struggle with litter.
Some business and building owners have vocally opposed the proposed district, with the Wessels family business, owners of the large Gateway Center, suing the planners. That suit was later dismissed and the Wessels recently sold the building in the largest real estate transaction in Northern Kentucky history.
Other businesses have expressed support, such as Steffen's Tool Crib.
On Tuesday, the Covington City Commission will consider giving a big push to the plans when it votes on whether to sign based on the amount of property it owns in the district.
The agenda for Tuesday's commission meeting does not state how many properties are included or whether it still includes the former City Hall the sale of which is expected to close soon for the purpose of its redevelopment into The Hotel Covington.
The commission will vote on properties owned by the City, by the Development Properties Corporation, and by the Municipal Properties Corporation, for three separate votes.
In April, 2013, the city commission voted to show its support for the BID, with Mayor Sherry Carran and Commissioners Chuck Eilerman and Steve Frank voting in favor, Commissioner Mildred Rains opposing, and Commissioner Michelle Williams abstaining. In December 2012, the Cincinnati Enquirer also endorsed the plans. In August of last year, the Covington Business Council hired a new manager with BID experience. Also last year, the Haile/US Bank Foundation awarded the BID effort $50,000.
Earlier this year, the CBC and the Urban Partnership named new board members.
Also on Tuesday's city commission agenda:
- --The commission will vote to enter into an agreement that would bring Bad Girl Ventures to Pike Street, next to UpTech, adding to the entrepreneur community developing Downtown.
- --New protective gear for the city's firefighters will be voted on. The department has been in need of upgrades to much of its equipment, and on Tuesday, the commission will vote on whether to spend $280,000 for new gear. More than $25,000 will be made as a down payment and then $50,000 would be paid annually to Honeywell/Morning Pride (through a state contract), from the general fund. $231,000 will go towards work on two ambulances, paid from the capital fund.
- --The proposed Scholar House project that would be installed in the long vacant Lincoln Grant school building will be extended for up to a year. The project, a joint effort between Marian Development and the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission, was not successful in obtaining tax credits this year, but if the city commission approves an extension on the Scholar House project's option to buy, they can reapply for credits. The project would place residential units and educational opportunities in the building. Newport is moving forward on a Scholar House in the city.
- --Madison Avenue, a state route, will be allocated $175,000 from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, to be resurfaced from MLK Blvd. to 20th Street.
Photo: Madison Avenue as seen from the Mutual Building/RCN file