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Leaders Hear Options for Kenton Co. Building as $65 Million Development is Weighed

Kenton County's government may consider moving out of its current downtown Covington building and could end up having a new facility shared with the City of Covington, part of a $65 million development proposed development called Duveneck Square.

The River City News first reported on the possible development in September.

The development centers around the parking lot on Washington Street between Pike and Eighth Streets and also includes some of the existing buildings that surround it. Cincinnati-based NorthPointe would be the developer and would bring with it a track record of high profile projects such as Mercer Commons and others in Over-the-Rhine.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Kenton County Fiscal Court heard a presentation by the Catalytic Fund, the development financing organization that serves the urban areas of Covington, Newport, Bellevue, Dayton, and Ludlow. Jeanne Schroer, president and CEO of the Catalytic Fund, proposed to Judge-Executive Kris Knochelmann and County Commissioners Joe Nienaber and Beth Sewell (Jon Draud was not present) that she and her staff could effectively market the existing Kenton County Administration Building to potential developers.

Though no action was taken at Tuesday afternoon's caucus meeting, the Fiscal Court will soon consider whether to issue a request for qualifications (RFQ) from potential developers. The Catalytic Fund would receive $5,000 for writing the RFQ, $15,000 for reviewing and helping to select the appropriate developer, and would then take 0.5% of the total project cost as a "success fee". Schroer stressed that the Catalytic Fund is a nonprofit entity charged with leading efforts to revitalize the River Cities.

Recent successes in which the Catalytic Fund played a crucial role include the Mutual Building, The Hotel Covington, the Life Learning Center/Stewart Iron Works, the Kentucky Career Center, the Market Lofts, the Pike Star lofts/UpTech, and the organization was recently contracted by the City of Bellevue to find a suitable developer for the Marianne Theater there. The Catalytic Fund is also working toward developing the Boone Block building on Covington's Scott Boulevard into nine luxury townhomes.

The Kenton County Building, which until a few years ago was also the site of the county jail before it moved to South Covington, would be a massive undertaking. "I did an analysis a few years ago that this building would be redeveloped into one hundred luxury apartments," Schroer said. "It was an $18 to $20 million project. However, the building could be torn down. This is not an historic district."

Rick Kimbler of NorthPointe also gave the Fiscal Court a presentation on the proposed Duveneck Square, which could be where Kenton County moves its offices on a site shared by the City of Covington, which currently leases its City Hall on Pike Street after moving in 2013 to make way for The Hotel Covington in the Coppins Building/former City Hall on Madison Avenue. The development would include offices, retail, and residential elements.

Kimbler stressed Tuesday that anything discussed currently is "premature" and "speculative". In September, Kimbler said that Covington appears to have some momentum and that his firm was exploring opportunities in the city.

The parking lot on Washington Street is currently owned by Champ Realty which lists Corporex chairman Bill Butler as a manager. The River City News reported in September that the transaction would involve a swap of land owned by the City of Covington, a parking lot to the east of the Ascent condo tower, which would then be developed by Corporex.

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