Board OKs Covington Church to Become Home of Culinary School, Theatre
After some back and forth between the developer and Covington's board of adjustment, a proposal to transform the historic First Methodist Church into a culinary school and dinner theater was approved for a zoning change.
Hans Phillippo, owner of Holland Roofing Co., has become a prominent developer in Covington, transforming two other buildings recently to open restaurants Lisse and House of Orange. He made a move on the church building when the Gateway Foundation, the fundraising nonprofit arm of Gateway Community & Technical College, sought proposals when the school concluded that it would not be used as part of the downtown Covington campus.
One other proposal received by the foundation would have turned the church into a residential property. That would have changed the aesthetics and historic nature of the building's interior.
"(Phillippo's) proposal keeps the building's historical elements in tact," said Jeanne Schroer, president of the Catalytic Fund and a member of the Gateway Foundation. "Other alternative uses would have required some significant alteration of the space." Schroer also said that Phillippo's plan doesn't require any investment from the City of Covington, whereas a residential project would have had to have been subsidized. "It's very costly to make those kinds of alterations."
Parking is also a concern.
In addition to the five-night limit, the board also included conditions that students and patrons be encouraged to park in nearby garages or parking lots rather than taking up the valuable on-street parking in the neighborhood. It also limited entertainment to the sanctuary of the church building and stated that performances should be over by 10 p.m. Williamstown-based Stage Right Musical Theatre Company will be offering regular performances in the space during dinner service.
As for other events, Phillippo has experience in that arena, too, as operator of Main Street Gardens in Williamstown. He also experience in addressing parking concerns.
When Lisse opened in Mainstrasse Village, the most parking-challenged area of the city according to Schroer, he placed valet service on site to serve not only his restaurant, but the entire business district.
"This is a unique situation and I hope you will take the six months. It's a two-way street," said Neil Blunt, a member of the board of adjustment. "This is an opportunity for us to find out if there's other things that (need to be addressed) or to say, hey, this is working great, or there's a few things I need to tweak. It gives us an opportunity to see how your concept is going to work."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photos: First Methodist Church (RCN file)