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Op-Ed: Covington Has the Right Stuff - and It's Showing

Covington’s physical location in the region, its proximity to natural, historic and cultural assets, plus that entrepreneurial spirit is a recipe for success.

And nothing speaks more positively about Covington’s future and its attractiveness as a place to live or start or expand a business, than a long list of commercial and residential projects as evidence of that progress.  The confidence of developers, residents, entrepreneurs and business owners who are investing tens of millions of dollars into high quality development and expansion projects in Covington is truly infectious.

  • Hotel Covington

  • Braxton Brewery

  • Duveneck Place

  • Mutual Building

  • Doctor’s Building

  • Boone Block

  • Gateway Community and Technical College

  • Scholar House, formerly Lincoln Grant School

  • Kentucky Career Center

  • Life Learning Center

  • Market Lofts on Pike

  • Pike Star I and II

  • 5th Street Properties, developer Tony Milburn, Odd Fellows Hall

  • Forcht Bank in the old Greyhound Bus Terminal

  • Tuscany residential development in South Covington

  • The Views Condominiums in Lewisburg (selling between $350,000 to $450,000)

  • Gold Star Chili in Latonia

  • Indy Honeycomb expansion in South Covington

  • Frida’s in Mainstrasse

  • Lisse in Mainstrasse

  • 501 Main Residential and Mixed Use Development in Mainstrasse, by Indianapolis-based developer, Flaherty and Collins

  • Lighthouse Transportation on 6th Street

  • Wendy’s and Chipotle

  • The Gruff

  • Mac’s Pizza

  • Commonwealth Bistro

  • UpTech

  • Ivy Knoll

  • Bad Girls Ventures

  • Inspirado on Madison

  • House of Grill on 5th Street

  • Jimmy John’s on Madison

  • Center for Great Neighborhoods / formerly Hellman’s Lumber

  • Meinken Field in Latonia

  • Duveneck Square

  • Henderson Music Building on Madison  

  • A New State Office Building in Latonia

  • And more……….

And recently, the Covington Business Council (CBC) initiated a monthly “Hard Hat Tour” for its members and guests to visit these new developments to witness the opportunities here and to encourage more investment in Covington. Thank you CBC.

But the message below that I received this week from a long time resident and rental property owner in the Mainstrasse area of the City put into perspective the ground level progress that is going on:

“… It's funny I've had a few people come up to me, over the last year and asked me if they thought the clientele in the area has gotten better. My rents are up about 40% and I get about 50 emails on every property. The demand is definitely higher and the clientele is definitely a young professional type person. I think one indication, is the type of cars that are parking down there now. Just 2 days ago another landlord came to me and said don't you think the clientele has gotten better. Just a question alone tells a lot about the neighborhood...”.

Much of this success comes from the City’s strong partnership with the Center for Great Neighborhoods (CGN), the Catalytic Development Funding Corporation of Northern Kentucky, and the engaged citizens of Covington who have a ‘Spirit of Progress’ focusing on the positives that exist within our community and our residents.  In addition, Building Covington’s Future – A Community Visioning & Strategic Plan, led by the CGN, the Linden Grove and Latonia Small Area Studies, and Covington’s City Center Action Plan, have laid out a vision and a course of action that is inspiring an amazing revitalization within our City.

There is no doubt that redevelopment in a dense, already-built environment with historic properties and design standards can be complex, but these investors, developers and entrepreneurs believe in something here in Covington that many have known for a lifetime. If you add together a great location that is very walkable and bikeable, in walking distance across the beautiful signature Roebling Suspension Bridge to major league sports, arts and culture, with the state’s second largest inventory of historic building stock, and locate it next to two major waterways, you have Covington!

And it’s not only a belief that these investors and developers have, it’s a common sense business decision of return on their investment! They see the high demand for residential and business development in a community with these unique natural assets. The economic development of historic properties is a booming business that bodes well for Covington. In Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District since the state initiated its Historic Preservation Tax Credit program, 148 projects have generated $71,586,575 of investment leveraging $12,017,421 in federal tax credits and $4,733,755 in state tax credits. Covington is one of 7 Certified Local Government communities in the 4th District that locally include Newport and Bellevue and Boone County. The cumulative benefit to all of Covington from the Ohio River to South Covington of these private and public investments is improved property values, new businesses and job creation, which encourages additional investment. And property values are rising. In 2015, taxable real property in the City was up by $37.8 million over 2014, and based on preliminary numbers for 2016, it is up by $47 million over 2015. And most of the projects and developments listed above are still in progress, so they have not been added to overall taxable real property yet by the Kenton County Property Valuation Administrator.

Many of the developers above are local, many are not, but their actions speak louder than any words I can state here, “…We want to do business in Covington”, and we do welcome all developers who want to do quality work in Covington.

Interestingly and to the point of Covington’s redevelopment boon, May is both National Historic Preservation Month, and Building Safety Month. In Covington, the combination of a precious asset in our historic building stock all the way from the Ohio River to Latonia, thoughtfully rehabilitated with modern amenities and current and safe building codes is the City’s best economic development asset after its location, our proximity to the Cincinnati metropolitan area.  Covington has the second most inventory of historic housing in the state only behind Louisville. Recognizing this unique asset, the citizens of Covington have spoken and established urban design guidelines, and an independent body of citizens, the Urban Design Review Board (UDRB), not City Hall staff, to make recommendations on development proposals in these historic districts. The citizens of Covington, through their UDRB find it important to maintain the integrity of the City’s historic housing stock, recognizing its value and contribution to quality economic development in the City. Citizens in Covington really do seem to understand that redevelopment of historic properties for residential and commercial use creates jobs, fosters more investment, revitalizes downtown areas and neighborhoods, brings tourism and increases property value, and of course the aesthetic value is like nowhere else.

Also, keep in mind when it comes to development that “quality” is more important than “quantity”. Some developers or investors may not be interested in what can surely be a tedious but worthwhile endeavor, the redevelopment of historic properties, but that is OK as many others are. And there are plenty of more conventional development opportunities outside these historic districts and their urban design guidelines, such as the Tuscany residential development in South Covington, the largest residential development project ever approved in Kenton County that continues to build out.

When you add together Covington’s central location in the region, its physical proximity to major league sports, arts and culture, and its own natural, cultural and historic assets, with our home grown entrepreneurial spirit, you have a winning combination, and its showing. If you are an investor, developer or entrepreneur, just as the signs at City Hall and around the City state, “the time to invest is now”, and get in on the ground floor of the explosion of investment and growth in Covington!

This op-ed was written and submitted by Covington City Manager Larry Klein

Photo: Larry Klein (RCN file)