New Historic Preservation Officer Named in Covington
Mon, 12/03/2018 - 06:39 RCN Newsdesk
The first time Christopher Myers visited Covington, he was so enthralled by the City's historic buildings and architecture that he couldn't remember where he had parked.
"I actually 'lost' my car because I was walking around looking at places," he said. "I couldn't get over how beautiful Covington was."
And even the casual conversations with residents he encountered revealed their immense pride in their surroundings.
"These folks, they weren't historic preservationists with a capital 'P' - but it was obvious they cared about the City's history and saw the value in the places, buildings, and spaces that make Covington unique," he said.
The experience convinced Myers that he was coming to the right place.
Myers, 26, is Covington's new historic preservation & planning specialist, having started at the City on Nov. 12. He replaces Emily Ahouse, who left in late August after a little more than three years in the position.
Myers came to Covington from the City of Indianapolis, where he was a senior planner and before that a preservation planner. He has a B.S. in urban planning and development and an M.S. in historic preservation, both from Ball State University.
That dual background is critical - it made Myers stand out among a strong group of applicants, and it will guide him in the job going forward, said Covington Economic Development Director Tom West, to whom Myers reports.
"Christopher is very passionate about preservation, and he brings a strong background in historic preservation as well as zoning to the position," West said. "These skills will prove invaluable to the community as we begin the process of rewriting the City's zoning code and look at ways to incorporate our historic and design guidelines into a single effective and efficient development code."
The duties of the historic preservation and planning specialist fall under the general mission of advocating for the City's thousands of historic buildings. On a daily level the duties include providing technical assistance on rehab rules to residents and developers, monitoring rehab projects that involve federal funds, and administering the City's preservation and design guidelines. (In addition to 18 National Register Historic Districts and individual listings on the register, Covington has seven historic preservation overlay zones where alternations to building exteriors must be approved.)
The position also works with officials from neighboring cities to organize the annual River Cities Preservation Awards and the annual NKY Restoration Weekend seminar.
Myers said he's still "in the discovery phase" of the specific role he'll play in his daily work life, but he said several philosophies and beliefs will guide his priorities, decisions, and attitude.
One has to do with the seeming dichotomy between preservation and growth/development.
"To me, preservation isn't about 'freezing' a place but about making sure that changes - and changes are inevitable - respect the character of a place and not cause the place to lose its identity," he said. "I want to help Covington grow in a meaningful way."
That's why work on the zoning code will be so important. The City has hired a national firm to begin the long process of rewriting its Zoning Ordinance to not only update it and make it more clear and efficient but also to incorporate historic preservation principles and goals to reflect Covington's hundreds of historic commercial and residential structures.
Myers said another concept that guides him revolves around the rehabbing of old structures in an era in which society makes it easier to toss out things and buy new.
"I value preservation because in the long term it makes more sense to take care of something you have," he said. "I want to find useful ways to empower folks to maintain and take care of things they have, to do maintenance and repair."
That's why Myers said he's excited about the region's annual Restoration Weekend, which next year will take place March 8-9. The educational event features seminars, workshops, and meetings designed to teach owners of historic homes about techniques and regulations and link them with experts, vendors, and skilled laborers.
Myers said he's amazed by the many examples of adaptive reuse of historic commercial structures in Covington. "It speaks to the strengths of these buildings," he said.
He also confessed a fascination with "tiny" architectural features like archivolts, quoins, entablature, and hood moulds.
"The sheer number of names for seemingly random/decorative architectural elements is impressive, but even more impressive are the important purposes many of those elements serve," he said, explaining. "I like those details."
So if you see Myers out and about staring at buildings in Covington, now you know why.
From the City of Covington