Legos, map grids & ‘charrettes’

At a “charrette” held in Jackson, Miss., residents used photos and markers to design what they wanted to see in their downtown area. (Photo provided by Cooper Carry)

Meetings this week ask public to get creative in designing IRS site

 COVINGTON, Ky. - Here’s what you need to know about the two “charrettes” that will be held tomorrow and Thursday to continue drawing out the public’s ideas for the soon-to-be-vacated IRS site downtown: 
  • “Charrette” is a fancy French word for a collaborative meeting to figure out the design of something. 
  • The agenda isn’t folks sitting around talking. Rather, people are encouraged to use tools like Legos, constructive paper, markers, scissors, and blank maps to design numerous aspects of the 23-acre property. 
“It’s very hands-on,” said Nicolia Robinson, senior associate with Cooper Carry, the design and architecture consultant helping Covington create a conceptualized master plan for the site. “We want you to not only tell us what you dream of building, but we want you to build it.”
The designs, Robinson said, would shed light on issues like: 
  • Whether the site should be kept whole, or subdivided with a street grid.
  • The appropriate mix of office, retail, residential, and public spaces on the site, and how those uses would sit in relation to each other.
  • The height of the buildings. 
When Cooper Carry used design charrettes for other projects in other cities, it was fascinating to see people’s creativity and focus, she said.
“Some people are all about it,” she said. “At some stations in the room, you can just ask questions, but at others you can draw, you can select magazine pictures to put together, you can build stuff, you put together interactive maps. However you do it, we just want you to engage.”
Covington will hold two charrettes: 
  • Wednesday, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Center for Great Neighborhoods, 321 W. 12th/MLK Jr. Blvd.
  • Thursday, noon to 1:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 326 Madison Ave. 
The events are set up in open house format, meaning attendees can show up at any time. In addition to the interactive, creative stations, there will be several stations that summarize and present the ideas and input that Cooper Carry has received from the public so far.
The public input process kicked off Jan. 24 with an open house, and an array of small dinner parties with focused discussion (called Civic Dinners) are being held now. It’s not too late to host or attend such a dinner. To do either, or find out more information, clickHERE.
About the site
The IRS, long one of Covington’s biggest employers, will shutter its processing center in late September. The sprawling, one-story processing facility takes up about 17 acres between Fourth and Third streets, with parking on an additional 6 acres. The complex is controlled by the federal General Services Administration, but Cooper Carry is helping Covington develop a strategy to gain control of the site as the precursor to future development.
City officials say they have no preconceived notions for the site but are mindful of two goals: Offsetting the estimated $1.2 million in payroll tax revenue that will be lost when the IRS leaves, and using the site to integrate the widely different neighborhoods and districts that it touches.
The site is adjacent to the Northern Kentucky Convention Center and sits across the street from the Ohio River floodwall. It’s also within a few blocks of 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 the Old Town/Mutter Gottes neighborhood.