It’s final: City gains control of IRS site

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Millions of federal tax returns were processed over the last 52 years within the cavernous IRS facility on Fourth Street. With the center shut down, the City now owns the building and 23-acre site.  

With purchase final, demolition of cavernous building up next 

COVINGTON, Ky. - The City of Covington took possession of the 23-acre IRS site today, officially closing the book on the first stage of the reinvention of a significant part of the City’s urban core.
 
The next stage?
 
Preparing the massive site for private development.
 
“We worked hard to get to this point, and now we own it,” City Manager David Johnston said. “A whole different type of work begins now, and believe me, we’re not going to be lax about it. We bought it not to hold on to it but to get it back on the tax rolls and contributing to both Covington and our taxpayers. We will work diligently to clear it and make it attractive for the private sector to come in and activate it. Stay tuned.”
 
The bulk of the property sits just north of Fourth Street between Madison Avenue to the east and Johnson Street to the west, with an adjacent 6-acre parking lot west of Johnson reaching the approach to the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.
 
Once the City’s largest employer, the IRS operated a massive tax-processing facility there for 52 years before shutting it down in September 2019. The City began purchase negotiations in December, came to agreement with the federal government in March, authorized debt in May, and closed on the property on Friday.
 
Today, Finance Director Muhammed Owusu wired the remainder of the payment -- $18,480,050 - to the federal government; and Johnston was handed the keys.

Covington City Manager David Johnston, left, receives the keys to the IRS processing center from employees for a contractor working for the federal General Services Administration.

 Johnston said the next step will be to issue an RFQ (request for qualifications) seeking companies wanting to bid on the demolition of the sprawling, one-story facility. The details of that RFQ will depend on the results of two studies that are nearing completion:
  • A geotechnical survey of the ground, which included boring for core samples down to 80 feet.
  • And an environmental assessment to see if the property was contaminated by any of the previous uses on the 160 parcels assembled to build the IRS facility in the mid-1960s. 
After the demolition, the City will restore the street grid, extend utilities to the site, and build fiber and WiFi infrastructure.

Mayor Joe Meyer signs papers to close the purchase of the IRS site.

 The ‘vision’
In late 2018, Covington hired Atlanta-based global architecture and design firm Cooper Carry to help it secure ownership of the site and to create a conceptual master plan - a “vision” - for how it could be developed.
 
Cooper Carry led a year-long effort that relied heavily on market studies, the City’s needs, and public engagement, offering residents and other stakeholders dozens of opportunities to weigh in on the plan.
 
The “vision” - which Johnston said would serve as a guide for development and can be seen HERE - included a restored street grid, a levee park, a community plaza for festivals, and a mixture of buildings containing offices, retail shops, and places to live.
 
Goals include:
  • Jobs and tax revenue from a variety of workplace environments.
  • A mixture of uses and outdoor spaces.
  • A walkable and drivable street grid.
  • Enhanced connections to the Ohio River.
  • Integration with surrounding neighborhoods and business centers.
  • A flexible framework to accommodate market demand and proposals.
 
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