The developers’ rendering of the new apartments and commercial space at 303 Court St.
Former jail, city-county office tower to become apartments, commercial space
COVINGTON, Ky. – One of Covington’s tallest buildings when it opened in 1969, 303 Court St. is about to get even taller – plus get a new exterior, a new use, and new tenants.
In a city known for massive and innovative “adaptive reuse” of historic buildings, the $31.4 million transformation of the 10-story former City-County administration building and jail into 133 apartments and 6,000 square feet of ground-level commercial space will be among the most dramatic.
The project – which the development team of Al Neyer Inc. and Urban Sites is calling “The Hayden” – is scheduled to get under way in the Roebling Point business district on July 15. It will involve:
- Stripping the building to its concrete core, with a brand-new exterior that includes balconies.
- Adding two floors to its height.
- Gutting the interior and removing jail cells.
- Demolishing the low-rise addition to the building that fronts Scott Street.
- Adding a new surface parking lot on Scott.
- Creating a mix of studios, 1BR and 2BR units.
- Tapping into a commanding view of the Ohio River, the Cincinnati skyline, Covington’s historic districts, and the rolling hills of Northern Kentucky.
“The dramatic changes proposed for this building mirror the evolution of its uses over many years,” Mayor Joe Meyer said. “What was built as a joint City-County government center more than 50 years ago and even housed prisoners for much of its life is set to become the proud home to hundreds of people and to become another iconic addition to the Roebling Point area.”
Members of the development team say that after more than four years of behind-the-scenes work, they’re eager to see the renovation begin.
“Couldn't be more excited to bring The Hayden with its breath-taking views to one of the Tri-State's greatest neighborhoods,” said Danny Lipson, chief development officer of Urban Sites.
Added Dan Ruh, executive vice president at Al Neyer Inc.: “With the help of the City of Covington, Kenton County, and the school board over several years, we’re very excited to see that this project will become a reality.”
This week saw key votes on the local government level.
After weeks of discussion, the Covington Board of Commissioners agreed this week to partner on the project by:
- Spending up to $500,000 from its TIF fund for reimbursement of public infrastructure improvements to the surrounding sidewalks, site utilities, and streetscape.
- Issuing industrial revenue bonds (paid back by the developer) with a “PILOT,” or payment in lieu of taxes, built in. Essentially the City – like Kenton County and the Covington Independent School District did in separate arrangements – agrees to forgo some property taxes over a 20-year period to gain other benefits.
Back in 2019, the City sought and secured various zoning adjustments to allow the development in that neighborhood.
Covington Economic Development Director Tom West noted that TIF funds (which come from the “growth” in tax revenue from surrounding development) are by their nature earmarked for such purposes and that much of those improvements would eventually have to be done anyway.
West also noted that even with the forgone property tax revenue, the project will eventually net the City and its taxpayers about $83,000 more a year, since it is part of a broader deal set in motion in 2016 involving the County and Neyer/Urban Sites.
That “deal” included two primary parts:
One, Kenton County moving its administration offices to the site of the former Bavarian Brewery at 12th Street and Simon Kenton Way near Interstate 75. As yet another example of “adaptive reuse,” the County renovated the former brewery and built a companion building alongside to serve as a consolidated office complex.
Two, the County agreed to sell its old home – 303 Court St. – to the Neyer and Urban Sites development team. (Under the terms of the IRB, however, the City will gain legal ownership of the building for the life of the bonds.)
A side benefit of the deal included the move of the offices of PDS (Planning and Development Services of Kenton County) from outside Covington to the new County complex.
Renovation of 303 Court St. into The Hayden is expected to take two years, the developers said.
Ruh told the Covington Commission that the developers were confident the apartments would be in high demand, given the walkability of the neighborhood, which includes – for example – restaurants, bars, coffee shops, a bagel shop, a bookstore, and the public library, as well as numerous large employers.
The first-floor commercial space will likely accommodate two or three tenants, he said. The developer was also looking at the possibility of providing operations and storage space for the weekly Covington Farmers Market.
To complement the new surface parking lot, the County will provide spaces for residents in its nearby parking garage.
Kenton County Judge-Executive Kris Knochelmann lauded the partnership that is enabling the project.
“When 303 Court St. opened in 1969, the City of Covington and Kenton County were partners in the project. More than 50 years later, it’s great to partner once again with the City on the building’s revitalization and to add another crown jewel to the Roebling Point neighborhood,” Knochelmann said.
“This is the culmination of a five-year project that also revitalized the old Bavarian Brewery and replaced deteriorated buildings and eyesores on the northern and western gateways of the city with signature projects,” he said.
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