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Downtown Covington Projects Discussed, and One in Latonia Teased

Two large projects in the city were discussed at the Covington Business Council's monthly luncheon on Thursday, while a third one was alluded to.
City of Covington economic development director Tom West spoke of the December announcement that two downtown buildings previously owned by the Kentucky Community & Technical College System at Pike Street and Madison Avenue would be transformed as part of an expansion of Hotel Covington and the addition of a bourbon distillery experience.
He also said to be on the lookout for "something big" to be announced in Latonia soon.
But the main focus of the luncheon was the Roebling Point entertainment area, which encompasses a few blocks just south of the Roebling Suspension Bridge. Late last year, a Covington-based developer announced the Covington Yard project, which will transform a surface parking lot and nearby buildings into an inviting public space with food and beverage operations.
Josh Niederhelman, whose company, Covcor, announced the project, and who is also president of the Licking Riverside Neighborhood Association, was on the luncheon panel with Richard Dickmann, owner and operator Smoke Justis, and Mary Willemborg, of Park Place Business Improvement Services.
Niederhelman spoke about how the Covington Yard project was going to come to fruition, opening his remarks by talking about the parcels that he already owned and how difficult it is to get others to sell. 
"The Roebling Point district is the focal point for everything hip and happening in Greater Cincinnati," he said. "I want to see it as the meeting place before going to a Reds game, or Braxton, or Newport."
One key component of the project is the pet-friendly greenspace, he said, which will accommodate the many nearby residents of the densely populated neighborhood who don't have a private backyard. 
"Living in the city, a lot of us don't have backyards," Niederhelman said. "I want this to be a backyard for everyone to meet at." 
According to Dickmann, the Roebling Point district already has some great attractions, but he cited two problems he recognized: one, that drivers get confused when traveling through the neighborhood on their way to other attractions because of wayfinding issues, and two, a lack of pedestrian safety. 
"We need to connect all of the fragmented pieces," Dickmann said. "It's a cluster, but a good cluster." 
One proposed solution is to redesign the approach to Covington from the suspension bridge. Dickmann also proposed a public square with a fountain or sculpture.
"This is one of the best areas in Greater Cincinnati by far," Dickmann said. "We need to make it more inviting to visitors." 
Dickmann emphasized that the district could do a better job of welcoming visitors in Cincinnati and showing off what Kentucky has to offer. 
Willemborg stated how important the Covington Yard project is by giving a brief history of the district and the trolley that used to run through it. She said that at one point the area was so important that it functioned as a major transportation and government services hub.
"Roebling Point has always been a crossroads with tremendous potential," Willemborg stated. "The potential is about to be realized - and that's coming from a long-time skeptic."   
Written by Connor Wall, associate editor