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First Look at Apartment Tower Set to Replace Former County Building

Covington city officials had their first look at the current design of a new apartment tower set to replace the former Kenton County government building on Court Street in the city's Roebling Point district.

Al Neyer, the Cincinnati-based developer and commercial real estate business, is leading the project.

The Kenton County government vacated the building in recent days and moved to its new home, the former Bavarian Brewery building on what was formerly known as Jillian's Way, named for the 1990s nightclub that previously occupied the site. The street, which intersects with 12th Street at its south and Pike Street at its north, is now named Simon Kenton Way.

Meanwhile, on Court Street, the old Kenton County building will be re-skinned and modified to become home to more than 100 apartments on the upper floors and commercial spaces on the street level.

"We anticipate making major modifications," said Mark Browning, an architect with Cincinnati-based Elevar Design Group, in presenting the renderings to the city commission.

City officials saw the presentation during Tuesday night's caucus meeting. On October 1, the city commission will officially hear a first reading of proposed map and text amendments to the city's zoning code related to the development. The map amendment seeks to change the zoning designation from a general commercial zone to a central commercial zone, while the text amendment is related to an allowance for density.

The late 1960s building was once also home to the city government. Until the mid-2000s, it was home to the Kenton County Detention Center, infrastructure from which is still found in the top levels. 

Browning said some of the changes include removing the lower portion of the building that extends from the lobby area to create on-site parking to accommodate the future commercial tenants. Two floors are expected to added to the top, giving it a total of twelve. 

The look of the building will be much more modern.

"The facade will be replaced with quite a lot of glass, metal panels," Browning said. Balconies will be added, too.

The building's proximity to the riverfront will offer many of the units attractive views of the Roebling Suspension Bridge and the Cincinnati skyline to the north, while south-facing units will have views of Covington.

At this point, the plan is for 118 apartment units, said Al Neyer development manager David Okun. He also explained that the developer has an agreement with the county to have access to the nearby Kenton County parking garage for 160 spaces, an agreement through which the county mandates that only apartment occupants have access to those spaces and that the developer not charge the tenants more for the spaces.

Okun said the project could be completed by the summer of 2021.

When asked about the impact on traffic in the area, Robert Gehrum, Al Neyer director of construction, said that he would expect less of a traffic impact when the building becomes predominantly residential as opposed to office-use. "You'll have 150 to 160 people staying upstairs rather than 260 people working in the office or 200 more (people conducting business with the county) looking for parking," he said.

One of the conditions recommended by the Kenton County Planning Commission, which already endorsed the zoning changes, was to have a traffic study conducted.

The city commission will hold two readings of the proposed changes at separate meetings before voting.

The county building project is among multiple high-profile development set to give Roebling Point a boost, including the nearly completed redevelopment of the Bradford Building, and the forthcoming transformation of an entire section of the neighborhood by developer Josh Niederhelman.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher