Open house Thursday kicks off IRS site study

This picture of the IRS, surrounded by the black wrought-iron fence, shows the proximity of the 23-acre site to the RiverCenter complex (in the background).

COVINGTON, Ky. - It will take years to figure out the future of the 23-acre IRS site, and that process starts in earnest Thursday evening. 

Cooper Carry, an Atlanta-based global architecture and design firm, will be leading an open house to kick off the public conversation about the Covington site and how the public will be invited to participate.
The open house will run from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center at Madison Avenue and RiverCenter Boulevard.
“Anybody interested in the City’s future is invited to attend,” City Manager David Johnston said.
The event will begin with a 10- to 20-minute presentation by Cooper Carry, who was hired to help create a conceptual master plan for the site and surrounding areas, as well as to write a strategy to free up the site legally for development. Cooper Carry has assembled a team of consultants, including a real estate firm with extensive experience dealing with the federal government on IRS properties.
Members of those teams will be stationed at tables to discuss aspects of the study, including urban design and land-use considerations, economic development and marketing opportunities, public outreach, and the legal process of gaining development rights from the federal government.
Cooper Carry’s work is expected to take 10 months with a heavy focus on public engagement. This will include interviews with selected stakeholders, neighborhood workshops called “charrettes,” and a device rarely used in Northern Kentucky called civic dinners. Cooper Carry’s team and the City will recruit people from neighborhoods and stakeholder groups to host the dinners, which are designed to foster thoughtful and low-key discussions.
About the site
The IRS, one of Covington’s biggest employers, announced in 2016 that it would close its processing facility in fall 2019 and eliminate about 1,630 jobs. The sprawling, one-story building - a 1960s-era “Flat Top” - itself takes up about 17 acres, with parking on an additional 6 acres. The complex is controlled by the federal General Services Administration.
The irregularly shaped site is located just west and south of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center and sits across the street from the Ohio River flood wall. It’s also within a few blocks of numerous key areas, including the RiverCenter complex, the Madison Avenue business and dining and drinking district, the hotel district near Interstate 75, MainStrasse Village, the Roebling Point Business District, and Old Town/Mutter Gottes neighborhood.
Johnson said the City has no preconceived notions of what should go on the site but is mindful of two goals: 1) Creating jobs that offset the estimated $1.2 million in payroll tax revenue that will be lost when the IRS leaves; and 2) using the site to integrate the widely different neighborhoods and districts that it touches.
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