A new City Hall

With five “homes” in 50 years, City government in Covington has lived a nomadic existence, forced time and again to throw the public’s belongings on its back and move to a hastily prepared location, often one poorly equipped for the critical mission of public service.

Currently, City Hall is renting space at 20 W. Pike St., a converted J.C. Penney department store. The temporary arrangement began in 2013 and was meant to be short term, but 10 years later, most City offices are still located there. (The Police and Fire departments, Public Works, and the Housing Choice Voucher division are located elsewhere.)

However, Covington officials are working toward building a permanent City Hall in the 600 block of Scott Street on property the City acquired just south of Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken.

WHERE: Here’s a map, with the red line enclosing the new City Hall site:


WHY: Despite a retrofit of 20 West Pike, the building remains inadequate for government functions. It lacks office space, meeting rooms for large groups, modern technology, a functioning lobby area, and even a lunchroom. Desks are jammed into hallways, closets, and common areas. Staff who work in teams are physically separated. And citizens who come to pay bills, apply for permits, or address Code violations must conduct their business out in the open. Furthermore, the Commission meeting room is poorly lit and has terrible acoustics.

WHEN: The Covington Board of Commissioners approved a contract on Feb. 28 with the team of Brandstetter Carroll, Inc. and Elevar Design Group to design a new City Hall.

COMMUNITY INPUT: The BeSpoke initiative

The vision and process for the City’s new home was set in motion in 2019 during a lengthy citizen engagement process that took on the name “Bespoke”” – a word that originally meant to speak up and out but has acquired a second connotation, one that references something that is custom-made or tailored.

In kicking off the effort, Mayor Joe Meyer said this: “A City Hall should be more than a building. It should be a vibrant center for a community, a meeting place, and a hub for efforts to create a better city and a better life for its families. This task force is the group of Covington residents that is going to help us figure out how Covington City Hall can fulfill that responsibility not just now but also 50 to 100 years from now.”

More about “BeSpoke: A Collaborative Civic Exploration” can be seen at the BeSpoke website, and the principles developed by its 16-member task force can be read at the BeSpoke report.

According to those principles, the new City Hall should:

  • Be in a visible, accessible, central, and prominent site that is “both symbolically and physically important to Covington.”
  • Not be a “single-purpose fortress” dedicated only to government offices but one with regular community events and programming.
  • As a true civic commons, include “a place for community voice, debate, and demonstrations.”
  • Celebrate the City’s architectural diversity and history.

Timeline (as told with news releases):

Covington City Hall – A location history:

 (i.e. “Home is where the file cabinets are”)


1844 -1899: First permanent Covington City Hall is built at 3rd Street and Market Street (now Court Street). County offices moved in at some point. Completely remodeled and a third floor added in 1872. Demolished in 1899 to make way for new building.

1902-1970: New joint City-County building dedicated on the site of the old City building (3rd and Market).

1970-1985: New 10-story office tower built on southeast corner of Scott and Third streets (303 Court St.). City offices occupied the 2nd and 3rd floors, with County offices and the jail in the rest of the building. As the inmate population grew, City Hall was squeezed out.

1985-1990: City leases 20 W. Pike St., which had housed a J.C. Penney department store until 1984 and had been built c.1910 as a Dan Cohen Shoe Store.

1990-2013: City moved into 638 Madison Ave. after buying and remodeling it. The building housed Coppin’s Department Store from the time it was built (c.1906) until the store closed in 1977. At the time it was built, the seven-story tower was the first reinforced steel skyscraper in Kentucky. The building was later sold to a developer to become Hotel Covington.

2013-current: City moves back to 20 W. Pike St.

Sources for history: