Viewing Covington's Riverfront in a Different Light
Submitted by the Covington Business Council
Hotel guests, residents, and those who work along the Covington riverfront are going to be seeing at first subtle but in the next three years significant changes along RiverCenter Boulevard and Third Street to the north and west of the Internal Revenue Service Center.
In the past several weeks some minor paving and landscaping work took place just west of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, across the street from the IRS thanks to $33,000 in grant funds administered to the Urban Partnership (Covington Business Council Foundation) by the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr. US Bank Foundation. The Urban Partnership used the money to hire contractors to pave a parking lot and plant trees along the southern part of RiverCenter Boulevard. Much more is planned in coming years.
This project is named the Public Realm Enhancement Study and is sponsored by meetNKY (the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitor’s Bureau) and facilitated by the Catalytic Fund and designed by MKSK Design and Planning. The work is in response to tourism industry calls for physical improvements between Covington’s hotels and the Convention Center.
“This is not just about beautification, “ said Eric Summe, Convention Bureau CEO. “Visitors demand a higher quality experience as they walk from their hotels throughout the community.”
The Study included additional stakeholder groups such as the City of Covington, meetNKY board members and staff, Corporex, Kenton County Fiscal Court, Mainstrasse Village Assocation, the Convention Center, Renaissance Covington, Roebling Point Business Association, and Southbank Partners. The purpose was to illustrate the needs of the tourism and visitor economy within the context of planned community infrastructure and transportation network projects.
Pat Frew Executive Director of the Business Council and Foundation, said his groups look forward to seeing more grant monies as well as CBC revenues going to additional work that will not only include paving and landscaping but also way-finding signage and lighting to make this section of roadway more welcoming.
“The CBC’s mission is to advocate for positive business environment in Covington. These funds will help accomplish this task by beautifying and adding more excitement to the riverfront as we continue to return vitality to the Central Business District.”
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Jeanne Schroer, President/CEO of the Catalytic Fund, says projects like these complement the work her organization is doing in downtown Covington and across Northern Kentucky’s River Cities.
“We see a strong demand for urban living and working options in Greater Cincinnati; having a diversity of quality options is key to regional economic development," Schroer said. "Ensuring we have the right amenities like connected, walkable and bikeable communities is essential to attract visitors and residents alike. We were please to work with the team of partners on this first phase of improvements."
The RiverCenter Boulevard improvement is one in a series of successful grant applications in the last few months by the City of Covington for redevelopment activitiy in its urban core. The city received $3.9 million in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds from former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear in October, $1 million from the federal
Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) via Kentucky’s Transportation Cabinet in November, and $1 million from the Transportation Cabinet for reconfiguration of Electric Alley in December.
For the RiverCenter Boulevard area, the City of Covington received a construction grant to improve the street surface of West RiverCenter Blvd from just past the Convention Center westward to the intersection with Johnson Street. During construction, the City of Covington plans to take advantage of the opportunity to reconfigure the lanes in this area, shrinking the overall size of the street to be more in accordance with the level of vehicular traffic it supports and then creating a wider, handicap accessible and inviting pedestrian corridor/sidewalk. The improvements just completed on the north side of the road will complement the road work that will take place in Spring 2016.