‘New’ City Hall? Residents to have say

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City Hall has been housed at 20 West Pike St. for five years. But just like its first stay here several decades ago, the location was meant to be temporary.

COVINGTON, Ky. - Covington is looking for energetic, thoughtful and creative residents interested in answering this question: If and when the City builds a new government building, what should it look like? 

Not “look” as in architectural features, but “look” as in function: What should City Hall “be” and “do” and “represent” for the citizens and businesses of Kentucky’s fifth-largest city? What should be the building’s role?
To help address those “what’s,” Covington is creating a task force of 10 to 15 residents to work with a private firm whose expertise is in public engagement.
The Covington City Commission voted 5-0 tonight to use private funds to enter into a contract of up to $20,000 with YARD & Company, a Bellevue-based urban growth firm. The money was donated by the R.C. Durr Foundation. The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Foundation is providing an additional $15,000 to YARD through Renaissance Covington to cover the total cost of $35,000 for the engagement effort.
Mayor Joe Meyer said the process is important.
“The opportunity to build a new City Hall is pretty rare,” Meyer said. “The temporary home on Pike Street is our fifth since the 1960s. It’s time to take the long-term view - planning not for the next decade but maybe for the next century. As Americans, we tend to take the short-term view, but this City is going to be here for 500 years, as long as the river we’re built on.”
The process - which is expected to take about five months - will not try to identify where a building could be built, its square footage, how much it would cost, and how it would be paid for. It won’t even decide whether a new City Hall should be built.
Those are important questions for another day.
Rather, in its “summary of the job to be done,” YARD & Company identified two goals:
  • Understand the history and existing functionality/use of the City Hall, its relationship to the city, and its ability to perform core responsibilities and services.
  • Use a range of engagement activities to creatively and meaningfully explore criteria, principles, and goals for what a 21st Century City Hall and any accompanying public space(s) should be in Covington.
 Among the engagement activities set up to gather the public’s thoughts and ideas could be things like a summit, website and social media, a market/festival stand, school projects, dinner club/porch tour, a public space “hack-a-thon,” and a traveling city hall.
The task force would help decide which activities to sponsor and make them successful.
Anybody interested in serving on the task force should fill out the City’s boards and commissions application available on its website, HERE. If you have questions, contact Lenette Beasley, executive assistant in the Mayor’s and Commissioners’ office, at lbeasley@covingtonky.gov or (859) 292-2334.
YARD & Company will summarize themes and present findings in a report to the City.
Covington moved most of its administrative offices (not police, fire or public works) into its current home at 20 West Pike St. in 2013 after selling its then-location (the former Coppin’s department store at Seventh Street and Madison Avenue) so it could be turned into the new Hotel Covington. It’s the City’s second time around in Pike Street building, which itself is a former J.C. Penney store.
The move was meant to be temporary, but a five-year lease recently expired. The City Commission authorized a four-year extension of that lease three weeks ago for $255,000 a year.
The current City Hall was never designed to be a public office building and is inadequate for the needs placed upon it.
While the 2013 retrofit made best possible use of the available space, the layout prevents efficient and confidential operations. For example, with no authentic lobby area and no private space near the lobby, citizens are forced to conduct their business with the City out in the open.
Many employees who work closely together are cut off from each other, and employees whose work requires collaboration with other departments and outside partners have few places to meet or work in groups.
In addition, the age and obviously temporary setup of the building does not reflect the pride that residents and businesses here have in their City, the Mayor said, nor does it present the best face to developers and entrepreneurs that Covington leaders are trying to persuade to invest in the City.
“Public buildings create messages,” Meyer said. “We need a building that tells future generations about our hopes and aspirations for our city.”
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