Covington’s grass-roots economic growth

With help from a City of Covington rent subsidy, Olla restaurant will open at 302 M.L. King Jr. Blvd./12th St.

10 small projects in line for City's help 

COVINGTON, Ky. - A new gourmet burrito restaurant. Two salons. An expanded shop for women's clothing, paper goods, and gifts. And eight new apartments in a space that once echoed with the sound of leather gloves pounding on heavy bags.
Those are a few of the 10 projects due to receive help from the City of Covington on Tuesday night when the City Commission votes on grants and loans designed to help fledgling businesses pay rent, existing businesses fix up their exteriors, small businesses obtain capital needed to grow, and rehabbers convert the vacant upper floors of commercial buildings into apartments.
All 10 projects received favorable nods from the Commission last week and were added to its "consent" agenda for Tuesday.
Collectively, they demonstrate the organic, grass-roots nature of the economic momentum in Covington, City officials say.
"One of the neat things about all the economic activity going on in Covington right now is that it's spread throughout the City and much of it involves small businesses and investors - people with dreams and the energy to make them happen," said Ross Patten, Covington's Economic Development Project Manager.
"That kind of growth takes longer, but it creates a sustainable dynamic that the City has been working to encourage and assist," Patten said.
The projects will tap into four different City programs for assistance. 
  • Handzy Shop + Studio will receive a $30,000 loan from the City's Section 108 program to help it move from 15 W. Pike St. to larger, two-story space at 17 W. Pike St. This is the first loan under the new, federal-backed program that Covington designed to help successful small businesses grow, Patten said. Handzy will use the loan for merchandise, equipment and working capital. The shop sells women's clothing, lifestyle accessories, paper goods, gifts, and similar merchandise and would add two jobs. 
  • D & M Company LLC will receive a $160,000 loan from the City's Upper Floor Residential Rehab Program to create eight new rental units in vacant, upper floor space at 809-811 Madison Ave. Under the federal guidelines for the Community Development Block Grants that fund the program, five of the units must meet federal affordability guidelines. The space used to house Shamrock Boxing gym and later the Lord's Gym. 
  • Sergio Gutierrez will receive a $6,000 rent subsidy over a one-year period to help start Olla LLC, a new family-owned and -operated restaurant specializing in gourmet burritos, hand-crafted tacos, and veggie specialties at 302 M.L. King Jr. Blvd./12th St. in Westside. The restaurant will hire five employees. 
  • Salon Jade will open as a new, upscale salon with five employees at 717 Pike St. in Lewisburg. It will receive a $6,000 rent subsidy over a one-year period. 
  • Gumdrop, an extension of Handzy Shop + Studio, will sell baby/kid clothing, books, toys, games, and gifts in the space at 15 W. Pike St. It will hire one new employee and receive a $5,400 rent subsidy over a one-year period. 
  • Haven Spa will open as a new, non-toxic salon and spa at 330 Scott Blvd. on the ground floor of The Bradford on Scott in the Roebling Point business district, offering manicures, pedicures, facials, and natural retail products. With six new employees, it will receive a $5,298 rent subsidy over a one-year period. 
  • 1301 Holman LLC, currently a neighborhood bar called Earl's at 1301 Holman Ave. in Westside, will receive a $6,000 forgivable façade improvement loan toward exterior improvements by a Covington contractor, including three metal awnings and 11 new exterior lights fixtures. The $12,163 project represents phase 1 of a $60,000 renovation that will include new paint, stained glass, door, and tuck-pointing. 
  • Greenlight Developers LLC will receive a $6,000 forgivable façade improvement loan toward a $13,400 improvement of the exterior of Crafts & Vines, a wine bar at 642 Main St. in MainStrasse Village. The project includes a new awning over its side patio on W. Seventh Street. 
  • The Covington Ladies Home, a residential facility for older women, will receive a $6,000 forgivable façade improvement loan toward a $15,200 project to improve the exterior of its facility at Garrard Street and Battelle Lane in Historic Licking-Riverside. The work, to be done by a Covington contractor, will include painting and replacing the soffit. 
  • Sean Selfe will receive a $6,000 forgivable façade improvement loan toward a $12,100 restoration of the commercial building at 324 M.L. King Blvd. in Westside. The work includes painting, trim, soffit work, and new windows on the building, which will house an architectural firm on the first floor and residential space on the second. 
The four rent subsidies and four façade improvement loans represent the first round of funding in Fiscal Year 2020 under the City's popular Small Business Program.
The City received a total of 12 applications for the program and has agreed to award $46,705 for eight projects, Patten told Commissioners. The applications leverage private to public funds at an average ratio of 3 to 1.
Meanwhile, the upper floor units at 809-811 Madison represent an investment of $1.55 million in the downtown area, said Covington's Federal Grants Manager, Jeremy Wallace.
"The City, and the downtown area in particular, has tons of great, underutilized space that could be transformed into cool apartments for people looking for urban living options," Wallace said.
The program, whose goal is to re-activate vacant, upper floor space, has helped to create 21 new rental units since its inception. Currently, 11 new units are under construction or set to begin, he said.

With help from a City façade loan, Crafts & Vines at 642 Main St. will install a new awning over its side patio.