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City to Buy Colonial Inn to Prevent Social Service Agency from Locating There

It was once home to Wallace Stewart - one of Covington's most prominent businessmen and the namesake of the famed Stewart Ironworks, but in recent years maintained a less savory reputation, one of blight and steady criminal activity that once even landed it on an episode of COPS.

The Colonial Inn, the once stately mansion that has rotted next to the Kroger store on the 1500 block of Madison Avenue, is now to be owned by the City of Covington.

On Tuesday, the city commission voted unanimously (with one abstention due to a possible conflict) to expend $250,000 from the city's capital budget to acquire the troubled property. When the property's business license faced revocation in 2014, the owner - Jason Mardis of Blue Diamond Properties - agreed to shut down the rentals and to place the property up for sale. The specific conditions negotiated at the time included the placement of the property at 1515 Madison Avenue for sale to the public at or below $350,000. If not sold by November 30, 2015, the Inn would release its business license voluntarily and close (the property has been vacant since last year after the business ceased operations).

The City of Covington also negotiated a right of first refusal on any sale of the Colonial made with a good faith offer.

According to City Solicitor and Assistant City Manager Frank Warnock, there was an offer to purchase the property from a social services agency that was not specifically named Tuesday. To prevent that, it was recommended to the city commission that the City of Covington should acquire the building instead.

The property is located at an important spot at a critical time. The nearby 15th Street Bridge is slated to be replaced and to reopen to vehicular traffic some time in the next few years as part of the Commonwealth of Kentucky's 6-year transportation plan. That will require some nearby properties to be razed. "It is a key property at a key location," Warnock said. 

Commissioner Chuck Eilerman, before voting in favor of the purchase, stressed that the city should not allow the old Colonial to deteriorate and stay vacant as long as 501 Main Street did. That building was acquired by the city ten years ago and only recently found its redevelopment partner. "The original home was a very significant building," Eilerman said, adding that commercial redevelopment could be possible considering the transformative redevelopment of the Boone Block on Scott Boulevard, which was just a couple years ago almost entirely vacant and falling apart and is now in the midst of becoming  luxury townhouses. 

Commissioner Jordan Huizenga referenced a presentation that took place earlier in the meeting in which representatives from the Wallace Woods, Austinburg, Helentown, and Levassor Park neighborhoods asked for a small area study to be conducted in their part of the city and to prevent any new social services from opening up shop until such a study is completed. "I am hopeful that we can achieve something of a plan that includes this building and others," he said. 

Commissioner Bill Wells and Mayor Sherry Carran voted favorably. Commissioner Steve Frank said that he does business with the attorney representing the seller so to avoid a conflict he did not vote.

"This building has been a thorn in our side for a long time," Carran said. "I agree that there needs to be a plan for this building. This won't stay vacant like 501 Main."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Colonial Inn (RCN file)