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Downtown Covington's Proposed Business Improvement District is Back

Talk of a proposed business improvement district (BID) will return to Covington later this month.

The Covington Business Council will host a presentation on the matter at its monthly luncheon, Wednesday, March 27, starting at 11:30 a.m. at the Madison Event Center (700 Madison Ave.).

CBC officials and local business owners will be on hand to take questions.

A BID is a designated geographic area where property owners agree to pay a special property assessment that funds services and programs beyond what is already provided for by the city. Typically, these programs and services are designed to enhance public spaces, assist in business retention and attraction, and ensure the economic vitality of the area.

Conversation about a BID in Covington first emerged in 2012 during the development of the Center City Action Plan, which outlined a vision for the city's downtown.

The idea never came to a vote at City Hall.

The presentation later this month will include information on how the newly proposed BID would be funded and by whom, as well as a look at the services and programs it would seek to provide. Its governance and other important information will also be shared, said Tony Milburn, president of the CBC Foundation and a member of the CBC strategic initiatives committee.

That committee has studied the BID issue for several months, a news release said.

“The CBC board wanted to hold an event devoted solely to this initiative so we could share with as many people as possible our vision of providing enhanced services and programs in downtown Covington,” Milburn said.

Nationwide, more than 1,500 business improvements districts operate in U.S. cities, including districts currently operating in Lexington, Louisville, and Cincinnati. “We want to create our own improvement district to make Covington more competitive, attractive, safe, and vibrant community,” said Milburn, who owns ten commercial properties in downtown Covington in the proposed BID area.

For the past three years, the CBC has spent approximately $100,000 a year, through grants it has acquired and its own funding, to contract with a company to pick up litter, remove graffiti, and water and tend to planters in the Central Business District, said CBC Executive Director Pat Frew. During the past three years, Frew estimates that this program removed more than 100,000 tons of trash and 2,000 incidents of graffiti from downtown streets.

“Many of our businesses have made it very clear that they want to continue seeing these enhanced services, but our funding sources to continue them are not sustainable,” Frew said, adding that the foundations that have funded the organization’s “clean and green” program in the past have told the CBC that this funding will be discontinued in the future.

“The creation of a downtown business improvement district could provide regular and reliable funding for these enhanced services and programs, not just in the Central Business District but throughout the entire BID district,” Milburn said.

Last year, the CBC hired Yard & Company, an urban-growth firm, to conduct an economic development priority analysis within the city by interviewing numerous business owners. “That study found that most Covington business stakeholders want to see improvements in the downtown area that realistically can only be accomplished or enhanced through the creation of a BID and the funding it generates,” Frew said.

Only commercial property owners within the proposed BID would pay annual assessments and an independent board of directors consisting of these commercial property owners actually would run the district, he said.

“In creating the governance structure of this district, we listened to our business stakeholders and city officials, both of whom make it clear that they wanted this organization run by the people who actually paying the annual assessment,” Milburn said.

Under the proposed governance structure, the City of Covington, Kenton County, the CBC, and Renaissance Covington would appoint representatives to the board, but they would serve only as ex officio members and would not have voting powers.

Early-registration pricing of $20 per person is available if registration for the event is made by March 21. 

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photo: Flowers on Madison Avenue placed by the Covington Business Council (RCN file)