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Covington Taps Project Manager for IRS Site Redevelopment

The City of Covington announced the hiring of an outside firm to project-manage the redevelopment of the former IRS site in the city.

J.S. Held, a global multi-disciplinary consulting firm, has worked on similar projects in the area, including the expansion of Hotel Covington downtown and the construction of the John R. Green Lofts in Mainstrasse Village, and the renovations of Newport on the Levee, and Music Hall in Cincinnati.

It was one of three firms to respond to the City’s search for a project manager for the redevelopment of the 23-acre site left vacant by the departure of the Internal Revenue Service.

“J.S. Held is a well-respected project manager and it’s going to be their job to drive the redevelopment of that site, led of course by our city manager and economic development director,” Mayor Joe Meyer said. “It’s hard for us to overstate the significance of this step.”

City Manager Ken Smith said part of the company’s attraction was that it does project management full time and does not pair that work with being a developer, designer or real estate broker. Thus it can completely fill the role as “the City’s representative” in the truest sense of that phrase.

“They will provide the high level of expertise and capacity that will help us jump-start the redevelopment of the IRS site,” Smith said. “With all the momentum in the city, and with the need to provide services to residents on a day-to-day basis, obviously City staff already have a full plate.”

Among J.S. Held’s responsibilities will be helping to manage and coordinate the project’s budget, schedule, safety, contracts, compliance, demolition, and construction.

Some of the first steps will be to seek proposals for three tasks, the city said:

  • Demolition of the sprawling facility and surrounding pavement.
  • Removal of environmental problems discovered on the site, including asbestos in the buildings, three underground storage tanks, and an underground concrete vault.
  • Engineering and design of so-called horizontal infrastructure, including restoration of the street grid, sidewalks, water and sewer lines, storm drainage systems, gas, electric, and communications.

The bulk of the property lies 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 closed on the purchase of the property from the federal government in August 2020.

In the past year, the city has secured over 1,500 pages of reports on the environmental challenges of the site and worked with the Commonwealth of Kentucky to create funding mechanisms for site preparation.

A conceptual plan created by Atlanta-based consultant Cooper Carry calls for a restored street grid; a levee park; a community plaza for festivals; a mixture of buildings containing offices, retail shops, hotels, and residential units; and expansion of the adjacent Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

-Staff report

Photo: Inside the former IRS site (provided)