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City Issues Guidelines Update on Historic Preservation

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COVINGTON - The City just updated its Historic Covington Design Guidelines and published the first new version of the compendium seen in 26 years, since the document's creation in 1988. The new edition is available in electronic format on the City's website and hard copies will be available later this month by request through the Historic Preservation Office at 859 292 2171 or bjohnson@covingtonky.gov.

The guidelines are a comprehensive reference for property owners of historic buildings. It focuses on every external facet, from windows to soffits, and advises the reader on a variety of approaches and best practices. The new edition is more reader-friendly, less technical in its language and has more helpful illustrations. It also incorporates the recent trend known as the 'Green Movement' and its effects on historic properties.

The guideline's update is significant. Covington, and the region in general, is known as having one of the largest collections of intact brick Italianate houses in the country. The City's effort to keep the architectural and historical integrity of buildings has made a huge impact to its own cultural identity, but also on its economic development and housing development efforts.

The guidelines tell property owners of buildings within Historic Preservation Overlay (HPOs) zones what is permitted and not permitted. It offers suggestions on how to perform work in a way that complies with historic accuracy. For example, few are aware that historic brick was softer than the modern brick available today. As a result, the mortar also was softer. Heavy lime-based mortar mixture is needed for older bricks because if newer and harder mortar is applied, it could cause the older bricks to crack and spall during freeze and thaw cycles.

According to Beth Johnson, Preservation and Planning Specialist and author of the Covington Historic Design Guidelines, property owners should use the guidelines as a reference whenever they are making exterior changes or improvements to their building. She says "It will give you advice how to do it, provide insight on how it was done in the time when the buildings were constructed and help guide you through the process. Whether you are a homeowner, architect, or developer, this guide will help you."

The process to revise the guidelines included Johnson attending neighborhood association meetings within historic districts to go over the guidelines, explain the changes and get feedback. "The feedback I received was a big part of the process and a lot of it led to some really great additions and modifications in the content." she said.

Highlights of New Features & Changes

  • Rain barrels and rooftop gardens.
  • Murals and public art
  • Modern and compatible materials and technologies.
  • Green technologies
  • User friendly layout and terminology with lots of helpful graphics
  • Easily downloadable from the City website 

Why Support Historic Preservation?

Local historic districts create an investment environment that attracts both public and private dollars, which often results in property value appreciation significantly greater than the surrounding areas. City Officials, staff and resident preservationists maintain that historic preservation has positively impacted property values and has driven people to want to live in areas where historic preservation overlay (HPO) zones have been instituted. They also claim it contributes to the unique character of the City and provides a rich sense of place.

The Historic Licking River Neighborhood is a perfect example. Located on the riverfront, the pristine and preserved neighborhood known for its historic architecture and beautiful housing stock was recognized as one of the American Planning Association's Top Ten Neighborhoods in the country

Mainstrasse Village, the City's well-known historic entertainment district, has a high density of restaurants, bars and retail businesses on its Main Street and is a good example of a commercial HPO. Mainstrasse brags traffic of approximately 300,000 annually, easily making it one of the City's highest trafficked destinations.

Kim Blank, Executive Director of the Mainstrasse Village Association, says "Our HPO is a big part of the whole ambiance and what people like when they come down here; it really helps to set us apart from other commercial districts. There is a quaint European feeling that lends itself well to outdoor cafés, walkability, greenspace and more of a village feel versus a homogeneous concrete environment. People love the setting because of the buildings. The Austin Healey Club just confirmed they will be hosting their annual 2016 convention here and they chose us because of the historic setting."

It is common for all communities with HPOs to have historic guidelines. Most communities craft a version that is tailored to their unique building stock, but the foundation of most guidelines, including Covington's, is the Secretary of the Interiors Standards for Rehabilitation, the federally accepted historic preservation guidelines.

The City also plans to send out a mailer to let property owners within HPOs know of the guidelines later this month.

Access the guidelines here.