COVINGTON, Ky. - The long-beleaguered Latonia Plaza II shopping center has a new owner, new tenants, and an entirely new modern concept.
ReGadget and Blair Technology Group - two local computer firms with national reputations - have joined to create CovTech Investments, a new firm that plans to create a $7 million modern work space centered on jobs in the former Value City/Burlington Coat Factory and Value City Furniture locations.
The project will transform a major portion of a largely vacant and underused strip mall long fixated on a "big box" retail philosophy into a new home for forward-thinking, creative businesses.
"This will deliver a jolt of energy to one of Covington's largest neighborhoods, creating jobs, excitement, and day-time traffic," Mayor Joe Meyer said.
The two locations - encompassing about 200,000 square feet of space on the southwestern end of what's commonly known as the "Latonia shopping center" - will be recombined and then subdivided starting this week, said the new owners of the property, who closed last week on their purchase from long-time owner Schottenstein Property Group of Columbus, Ohio.
"We're taking over the property right now, and people will start seeing activity there immediately," said Kurt Reynolds, co-owner of Florence-based ReGadget LLC and Chief Financial Officer of Blair Technology Group. "We're excited to be bringing back business and jobs to Latonia."
The Value City Furniture space has been empty since the store closed in summer 2013. The adjacent space was long home to Value City until the department store chain declared bankruptcy in 2008 and later was occupied by Burlington Coat Factory, which closed last year.
ReGadget and Blair Tech together will each use space within the buildings.
ReGadget provides educational-based computer equipment such as Chromebooks and
Apple products to both students and school systems. The demand for affordable technology has pushed ReGadget to over 100 percent growth year after year.
ReGadget will move its operations and 24 employees to the new location, add at least 10 employees immediately and eventually add 40-50 employees more over the next few years, Reynolds said. The new jobs will include computer technicians, managers, and sales and customer service staff.
Blair Technology Group:
Blair Tech, the nation's No. 1 authorized refurbisher of Microsoft products, will expand its operations by moving several departments into the new space. The company is quickly outgrowing its current headquarters in the former Johnny's Toys location on Howard Litzler Drive, where it's been since 2013. Its headquarters and retail store, Tech Castle, will remain at the historic location.
Blair Tech recently announced plans to add 30 to 40 employees, said founder and CEO Andy Blair, who is co-owner with Reynolds of ReGadget.
The company specializes in delivering high-quality, renewed laptops and desktops, which it sells primarily through eCommerce. Most recently, Blair has also launched an up-and-coming PC Gaming brand called Periphio that has been ranked as the No. 1 release in the Computer Category on Amazon.com and ranked as one of the top five gaming computers of 2020.
"Blair Tech is an aggressive and rapidly expanding business and thrilled to be a part of Latonia's renaissance," Andy Blair said.
Blair said the remaining vacant space will be remodeled with a focus on today's business needs and tomorrow's environmental needs. The current "big box" space will be transformed into a variety of spaces for both small and large businesses to use. Polished floors, modern work spaces, shared break space and a cafe, creative thinking space, solar panels, trees and plants will not only attract forward-thinking businesses but will also create a carbon-friendly footprint for the environment, he said.
Blair said the company has already begun focused marketing to prospective tenants and will ramp up marketing efforts soon.
Among with the internal renovation, CovTech Investments plans a substantial modernization of the exterior of the building and new landscaping to the parking lot. (See the attached renderings from Hub+Weber Architects.)
CovTech Investments will be applying to the City for a forgivable façade improvement loan. ReGadget will be applying for a payroll tax incentive as the local match for an incentive from the state Kentucky Business Investment (KBI) program, for which it's receiving help from the Northern Kentucky economic development agency Tri-ED.
Covington Economic Development Director Tom West said bringing new life to the Latonia shopping center had been a City goal for decades and said City officials had been working with Blair and Reynolds for well over a year.
He especially likes the project because it moves away from an "antiquated" and shaky reliance on "big box" stores.
"I think what they are doing is kind of ironic in a 'Covington Cool' sort of way," West said. "They are replacing stores that were replaced by internet shopping with jobs that support the technology that allows for internet shopping."
Tri-ED said it was thrilled to be part of the collaborative partnership with the City and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development to support ReGadget's expansion and growth while retaining the company in Northern Kentucky.
"We are heartened to see ReGadget moving forward, investing money in buying and renovating a building in Covington, and creating new jobs during an uncertain time for our economy," shared Lee Crume, Tri-ED's President & CEO.
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