N.Ky.’s largest law firm moving to Covington

A rendering of the finished Monarch Building restoration and expansion shows the preserved façade, the extra two floors, and the new building (at right) with the connecting atrium. (Photo provided by PCA Architecture).

Project features $11.3MM rehab of historic Monarch Building 

COVINGTON, Ky. - The recent resurgence in Covington’s urban core continues with another large-scale project, this an $11.3 million expansion of a historic building that will become the home of DBL Law, Northern Kentucky’s largest law firm.
Tonight, the Covington Board of Commissioners voted to approve a development agreement for what’s known as The Monarch Building in the 100 block of Fourth Street, next to the Boone Block Lofts townhomes and across the street from Molly Malone’s Irish Pub.
The agreement approves the use of industrial revenue bonds and tax-increment financing incentives for:
  • An $11.32 million restoration and expansion project by developer Al Haehnle that will triple the amount of office space at the location.
  • Activation of a building that has sat vacant for over 20 years.
  • The arrival of DBL Law, Northern Kentucky’s largest law firm.
  • The relocation of as many as 76 employees to Covington.
  • And continuing momentum in the urban core. 
“When DBL told us they wanted to move back to their roots, we were eager to talk,” Mayor Joe Meyer said. “Covington is gaining a quintessential Northern Kentucky law firm, a lot of jobs, and the return to use of a historically significant building in an area that’s building momentum. This is a meaningful project.”
DBL Managing Partner Robert Hoffer said the firm expected to move to Covington in about a year. While DBL is currently located in Crestview Hills, the firm began in Covington over 60 years ago and was located on Garrard Street when Hoffer joined the firm in 1980, he said.
“We are returning to be part of the reclamation of a historic building that is in the middle of a vibrant area,” Hoffer said. “As we work to attract talent in the future, this building - along with the success and reputation of DBL Law - will be a huge driver for us, separating DBL from our competitors. It will be a place where people will want to work and build their careers.”
The building at 111-113 E. Fourth St. was constructed about 1903 for the Citizens Telephone Company but is best known as the former site of the Monarch Tool Co. Historic preservationists say it’s notable as an example of the Beaux Arts style.
Restoration & expansion
According to a project summary, the historic façade of the building will be restored and the interior gutted and returned to Class A office space. Two additional floors will be added to the building, while a garage/annex to the west at 103-107 E. Fourth St. will be demolished to make way for a four-story addition that will include parking on the ground floor. An atrium will connect the buildings.
All told, 20,000 square feet of office space will be added to the complex, which now has 10,000 square feet. DBL will occupy all of that space.

The vacant Monarch Building as it looks today, with the low-slung garage annex at right.

The development includes 59 on-site parking spaces, and the firm plans to lease additional spaces in the nearby Midtown Garage from the Covington Parking Authority.
City officials estimated that after incentives, the project and its tenants will bring $1.65 million in net new revenue to City coffers over 15 years. The Covington Economic Development Authority recommended approval of the TIF incentives, and City staff recommended approval of the IRB.
Covington Economic Development Director Tom West said the project fulfilled the “All Things Office” and “New-Collar Jobs” goals set out in the Garner Economics’ citywide economic development strategy written for the City a year ago.
“When businesses like DBL look at the critical role talent attraction and retention plays in their future, Covington quickly becomes the address of choice because of our ‘cool’ factor, the cost and ease of doing business, and our uniquely authentic vibe,” West said.
Continuing momentum:
The project is the latest in an array of large announcements in Covington’s urban core. 
  • Earlier this month, First Financial Bancorp. announced it was buying the historic four-story building at 601 Madison Ave. with plans to expand its “next-generation” banking concept with the new “First Financial Bank 6th & Madison Innovation Center,” which would serve as its Northern Kentucky headquarters. 
  • Donna Salyers’ Fabulous Bridal Boutique then announced plans to move from 601 Madison to 20 West 11th St., renovating space there to create a dual showroom with a related business, the world-renowned Fabulous Furs. 
  • Another “musical chairs” deal saw Icon Marketing Communications move to the ROAD iD building at 35 W. Eighth St. Meanwhile, 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. 
  • Also earlier this month, The Salyers Group and vR Group began work on a $22.5 million project at 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 block to the north, the City made zoning changes to pave the way for the 10-story tower at 303 Court St. - until last fall the home of Kenton County’s administrative offices - to gain two floors, get a new façade, and be transformed into more than 100 apartments. 
  • And a half block to the east of The Monarch Building, construction is continuing on Covington Yard, a new entertainment spot that will include a bar and ocean containers outfitted for local food operations. 
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