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Covington Moves to Find Firms to Demolish, Remediate IRS Site

The City of Covington is taking steps in the demolition of the former IRS facility, a sprawling one-brick building that stretched across most of 17 acres near the city's riverfront west of Madison Avenue.

The city acquired the property last year after negotiating with the federal government, which closed the facility where thousands worked over the decades.

The city's plan for the site includes office buildings, retail shops, apartments, condos, a plaza, and a levee park.

But before that work can begin, the current site must be razed.

On Thursday, two separate requests for qualifications (RFQ) were created seeking firms to do that work which would include removing the buildings, pavement, and environmental problems.

This week, a third RFQ is expected to begin the process of designing streets and utilities.

“A lot has been happening behind the scenes since the city acquired the property in August 2020,” City Manager David Johnston said. “Now we’re accelerating those efforts into a more visible and thus more exciting phase. We are wasting no time in turning this site into something magnificent.”

The bulk of the property sits just north of Fourth Street between Madison Avenue to the east and Johnson Street to the west, with an adjacent parking lot west of Johnson reaching the approach to the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.

Once the city’s largest employer, the IRS operated a tax-processing facility there for 52 years before closing in September 2019. The city began purchase negotiations in December of that year, came to agreement with the federal government in March 2020, authorized debt in May, and closed on the property in August.

The RFQ process – used for professional services contracts – puts emphasis on selecting qualified and experienced companies capable of tackling large and complex projects, with the cost of the contract determined after negotiations.

Johnston said the city wants a firm with at least ten years’ experience in demolition and salvage in an urban core, including experience with large-scale projects, buildings owned by the federal government, and environmental contamination.

The interest is intense, he said, saying that firms began contacting the city ever since it started the process of buying the site.

The value of salvaged materials should be included in the proposed price for services. This could include recyclable stuff like copper wiring and metal, as well as reusable stuff like oak railings and HVAC equipment.

The environmental RFQ seeks to mitigate threats identified by an environmental and engineering consultant, including the presence of asbestos, three underground storage tanks, and a concrete vault believed to have once been used as an oil-water separator.

“You have to remember two things: That construction of the facility in the mid-1960s predated the federal Clean Water Act and most environmental regulations, and that the site was pieced together from 160 parcels that had been home to a variety of industrial uses, including the manufacturing of X-ray equipment, sheet metal fabrication, a dry cleaning facility, and auto service stations,” Johnston said. “We couldn’t open the site up for development until we identified any environmental concerns that might be lurking below the surface.”

Responses to the first two RFQs are due by Feb. 25.

-Staff report

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