Lewisburg ‘wins’ rights to The RIPPLE Effect

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One of the architect’s renderings of the proposed Lewisburg Thorofare Project on Pike Street.


City to help implement public-private ‘Thorofare Project’


COVINGTON, Ky. - A vote of the Covington City Commission this week formalized what had been unofficially announced the week before:
 
The first big splash of The RIPPLE Effect will occur in Lewisburg.
 
A neighborhood-submitted plan called the Lewisburg Thorofare Project emerged from a months’ long competitive process as the most developed of what City officials called “four fantastic proposals.”
 
The inaugural RIPPLE Effect is designed to combine private and public investment - including $300,000 in promised City-funded infrastructure improvements - to jump-start a neighborhood business area outside of the Central Business District.
 
“We’re very ecstatic about both the number and quality of the proposals,” said Jeremy Wallace, the City’s Federal Grants Manager. “Lewisburg put forth the strongest proposal but the other three were full of great ideas as well.”
 
The Covington City Commission voted 5-0 Tuesday night to authorize City staff to work with the applicants to do an analysis of the Lewisburg proposal with the goal of implementing it this year.
 
“All of this stuff is visionary,” Wallace said. “Staff will work with them in the coming months to determine feasibility, create budgets, assess costs and legal issues, and schedule our work - basically to turn their vision into reality.”
 
The Lewisburg proposal focuses on the business district/node at the bend of West Pike Street near Montague Road and Western Avenue (an intersection commonly recognized as the home of Herb & Thelma’s Tavern and Be Concerned food pantry). It was put forth by a group of citizens based out of the tavern and calling themselves Heine’s Social Club.
 
In line with the requirements of The RIPPLE Effect, the proposal has three parts: 
  • Proposed publicly funded improvements that include a physical gateway on Pike Street at Montague Road (arching over the street and made of iron); street and alley improvements around the targeted area; additional improvements at nearby Father Hanses Park; and streetscape improvements like lighting, trees, benches, and new trash receptacles. The improvements will be funded by the federal Community Development Block Grant program that Wallace oversees. 
  • Plans to leverage additional City services such as recreation programming, increased police presence, and incentives that help small businesses with rent and façade improvements and that help developers rehab upper floors into apartments. 
  • An aggressive array of privately funded property development. The Lewisburg group has formed a limited-liability corporation that already has bought three buildings on one side of Pike Street and is negotiating to buy other nearby parcels. Plans call for rehabbing the three buildings and replacing others with four new buildings to create commercial space and residences. The investment into the four new buildings alone was roughly estimated at almost $2.9 million. 
The competition
The scope of that private investment, City officials said, is what pushed the Lewisburg proposal to the top in the analysis done by a group of department directors and subject matter experts who scored the four proposals. 
  • The Lewisburg proposal scored 725 out of 800. 
  • A proposal by the Latonia Uptown Group scored 660. It centered on Ritte’s Corner and included investments in wayfinding, streetscape and beautification, and parking lot improvements. 
  • A proposal by the Eastern 4 Neighborhoods for the business district along 20thStreet scored 571. It included additional lighting, streetscape improvements, a pop-up park, and activity programming. 
  • And a proposal by residents of the Mutter Gottes neighborhood scored 457. It included bike lanes along 4th and 5th streets and a new park at Johnston and Russell streets. 
Wallace said the City will work within existing budgets to try to implement pieces of the other three proposals. In the event the City repeats the RIPPLE Effect competition in the coming year, staff will also work with the groups to strengthen their proposals for possible resubmission, he said.
 
“We’d love to do this again,” said Economic Development Director Tom West. “We won’t know the full impact for some years. To use the analogy suggested by this initiative’s name, we’re tossing some big investments out there and making some splashes, and as these ripples resonate against each other, who knows what other waves will turn up in the years to come.”
 
About The RIPPLE Effect
The City kicked off the initiative with an open house on Oct. 30 of last year. RIPPLE is an acronym that stands for “Revitalization Includes People, Places, Lifestyles, and Economic investment.”
 
The goals, West told the Commission, are to maximize impact of public investments; work within existing budgets; collaborate and leverage across departments; encourage investment, buy-in and ownership; and elevate property values and quality of place.
 
“This has been a wonderful, successful experiment,” Mayor Joe Meyer said. “I’m certainly in favor of continuing the funding and allowing our neighborhoods a second bite at the apple.”
 
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