City: Where to apply RIPPLE Effect?

COVINGTON, Ky. - Drop a pebble in a pond, and it creates a ripple. But toss in a whole bunch of bigger rocks at the same time, and it creates a series of waves that reach higher, travel further, and last longer - resonating long after the rocks themselves have disappeared.
That’s the motive behind a new initiative in the City of Covington that will focus the City’s resources and services on a specific neighborhood business area in a coordinated fashion to maximize the impact of public investments.
Called, appropriately, “The RIPPLE Effect,” the acronym stands for “Revitalization Includes People, Places, Lifestyles (and) Economic investment.”
On Oct. 30, the City of Covington will hold an open house to introduce the initiative, recruit neighborhood partners, and begin the process of identifying the first area where the City will focus.
In fact, the process will be driven entirely by the neighborhood proposals, and it will be in essence competitively bid: Covington will select the project area after evaluating plans submitted by private groups that include their commitment to action and investment.
“It’s an experiment in which we’re being entrepreneurial in how we deliver services,” said Covington Economic Development Director Tom West. “Look at it this way: It’s not what the City can do for an area but what it can do with an area.”
The Covington City Commission set aside $300,000 in federal grant money in the current budget to fund public improvements in the area that is chosen. The commission heard a presentation on The Ripple Effect at its meeting Aug. 7.
The degree to which a neighborhood buys into and embraces a revitalization effort is the key to its sustainability, said Jeremy Wallace, the City’s Federal Grants Manager who oversees the federal Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs.
In the past, Wallace said, the City “made these federal investments as needs arose without a lot of strategic thought into where those investments occurred. This coordination - which could include a wide array of complementary City services - hopefully will create bigger impact.”
Eligible partners for The RIPPLE Effect include organizations like community groups or councils, neighborhood associations, and associations or organizations that represent neighborhood businesses or business interests.
Eligible areas must fit the designation as a neighborhood business district or a neighborhood business node.
The Open House
The open house will take place 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. Oct. 30 in the Commission Chambers at City Hall, 20 W. Pike St.
It will be set up in trade-show style with tables representing Departments and Divisions of City government. Directors of those offices will give short presentations (with the opportunity for questions) beginning at 6 p.m., and they’ll be available for one-on-one meetings beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Among the City agencies represented will be Police, Fire, Neighborhood Services (including code enforcement, parks & recreation, housing/federal programs, and solid waste/recycling), Economic Development, and Public Works (including streets & sidewalks, and urban forestry).
The Process
The open house will explain the four-step process of selecting the area where the City will focus.
  • Step 1: Would-be private partners must submit a short pre-application, a one-page summary that City staff will use to determine eligibility.
  • Step 2: Partners must submit a full project funding request, which will outline how City investments, programs and services can combine with private investment and commitment to transform an area.
  • Step 3: City staff will evaluate project proposals and recommend one to the City Commission for approval.
  • Step 4: Staff will work with the winning applicant to create a schedule for implementation. 
The City hopes to be under way on implementing a plan sometime after the first of the year, Wallace said.
To see the program summary and guidelines, click HERE.
Public investments
The City can bring two things to bear: Funds for public improvements, and focused application of City services.
Examples of the former include investments in public infrastructure like parking lots, street reconstruction or resurfacing, sidewalks, lighting, gateways, signage, trees, landscaping, and trash cans, or aesthetic amenities like sculptures and works of art.
The latter could include services and programs across the gamut of City departments, including small-business incentives (rent subsidies and façade improvements), business retention and expansion visits, waived or reduced fees for permits, city-owned commercial properties, upper-floor residential rehabs, code enforcement sweeps, street tree inventories, intense police patrols, and fire safety inspections and training.
As a whole, The RIPPLE Effect program has five goals:
  • Maximize the impact of public investments.
  • Work within existing budgets.
  • Collaborate and leverage across departments.
  • Encourage investment, buy-in and ownership.
  • Elevate property values and quality of place. 
West said the Economic Development Department solicited names for the initiative from City staff and others but settled on “The RIPPLE Effect” as soon as it was suggested: “It brings to mind perfectly how a set of coordinated and strategic actions can resonate for a long time, if you do it right.”
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