Bank opening ‘innovation center’ in Covington

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First Financial moving to Fabulous Bridal building

COVINGTON, Ky. - City of Covington officials were celebrating today with news of another large-scale economic development announcement that will:
  • Super-charge the energy of a several-block area of Madison Avenue already bustling with change.
  • Add jobs downtown.
  • Bring to Covington a highly respected financial company.
  • Solidify Sixth and Madison as the financial center of Northern Kentucky.
  • And set in motion yet another commercial building version of “musical chairs.”
The announcement centers on the historic four-story building at 601 Madison Ave., currently home to Donna Salyers’ Fabulous Bridal Boutique.
First Financial Bancorp. said this morning it was buying the building and would use it to expand its “next-generation” banking concept with the new “First Financial Bank 6th & Madison Innovation Center,” which would serve as its headquarters site for the Northern Kentucky market.
The company said the new location would be a welcoming community center, offering spaces that are both publicly accessible and technologically equipped. Guests will have access to free Wi-Fi, a free coffee bar, multiple open seating and meeting areas, two reservable conference rooms, and, on the second floor, nearly 1,000 square feet of event space available for public use.
The bank will provide office space for its employees on the third and fourth floors of the building.
Bank officials said design work has already started on the project, with construction expected to begin in the spring and its opening to come in late fall.
“Our 6th & Madison Innovation Center will serve as a hub for economic activity as we enable other businesses to expand and bring more jobs to Northern Kentucky,” said Archie Brown, Jr., president and CEO of First Financial Bank. “We’re focused on being deeply woven into the community, and this new headquarters site will help us to be an even greater catalyst for growth here.”
City officials were ecstatic to see the announcement come to fruition.
“It’s exciting to welcome First Financial Bancorp to Covington’s urban core, and we can’t wait for this project to be finished and them to start operations,” said Covington Mayor Joe Meyer. “We’re well aware of First Financial’s work supporting development in this region, and its physical presence at Madison and Sixth will further solidify this intersection of Covington as the financial center of Northern Kentucky.”
Cincinnati-based First Financial joins three other financial institutions - US Bank, Huntington Bank, and Republic Bank - that already occupy the other three corners of the intersection at Sixth and Madison.
At its caucus meeting tonight, the Covington Board of Commissioners will discuss a proposal to grant the bank a utility line easement along a portion of Sixth Street so it can locate an interactive teller machine (or ITM).
Bank officials said the 6th & Madison Innovation Center will offer significant financial education opportunities to help individuals and business leaders improve their financial health. Resources will be available both in person and via self-serve technology options.
The company’s initial “next-generation” banking site, the 4th & Vine Innovation Center in downtown Cincinnati, opened in August 2019.
Meanwhile, the owners of Fabulous Bridal said the company would be moving elsewhere in Covington.
Economic Development Director Tom West said the City had been working closely with both First Financial and The Salyers Group for a while to assure an easy move to the central business district, including zoning for the ITM.
“We’re excited,” West said. “First Financial does a lot of community work around the subject of financial literacy, and we are hopeful that will help us move the needle for people living in poverty or near poverty in Covington.”
Lots of momentum
  • Just a block south, The Salyers Group and vR Group began work this week on a $22.5 million project at the corner of Madison Avenue and Pike Street that will include a “bourbon distillery experience,” an addition to nearby Hotel Covington, and about 10,000 square feet of office space in the historic YMCA and Gateway Bookstore buildings.
  • A little further south, another “musical chairs” deal will see Icon Marketing Communications move to the ROAD iD building at 35 W. Eighth St. ROAD iD will undertake a significant renovation of vacant warehouse space it owns near the building and relocate its headquarters there. Together, the projects represent almost $5.5 million in investment and will bring about 50 jobs (including some newly created ones).
West said Covington expects more big announcements in the coming weeks.

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