Eastern Corridor 'conversation,' Part II

The turnout and the engagement were lively at the first “Cookouts and Conversations” economic development “activation event” in Austinburg last week, so much so that a second all-day event occurs Friday. 

Friday event adds free photos, movie to economic activation effort

COVINGTON, Ky. – Both the turnout and the discussion at the first “cookouts and conversations” event were wide-ranging and robust, so the City’s economic development team will bring its mobile operation back to Austinburg Neighborhood Park on Friday.
The goal?
To keep the conversations going after last week’s impactful dialogue with neighborhood business owners, entrepreneurs, and residents in the City’s effort to spur jobs, local investment, and business in the area it calls “the Eastern Corridor.”
Wanting to empower and engage the community rather than dictate to it, the City’s team wants – first of all – to make sure entrepreneurs and property owners know about the programs, tools, and resources available to them through City Hall, as well as keep them informed about pending projects.
A good start
Last Thursday’s all-day event attracted church deacons, business owners, longtime residents, new residents, and even 7-year-olds. And the dialogue was both thoughtful and purposeful.
“People shared input on proposed gateway improvements at the 12th Street bridge, they voted on park renovation ideas for Austinburg Park, and they asked questions about the Read Ready Covington initiative, entrepreneurship resources, and neighborhood projects in the works with the partnership between the City and CGN (The Center for Great Neighborhoods),” said Ross Patten, assistant Economic Development director at the City.
Shannon Ratterman, Community Development program director for the non-profit center, echoed Patten’s optimism.
“Last week we saw the start of meaningful engagement,” Ratterman said. “We got the chance to talk to a lot of people about how the City, the Center, and the people that live and work here can collaborate together on projects that will bring a benefit to the whole community,”
Ratterman said she looks forward to continuing that conversation on Friday and hopes even more people attend.  
If you go
The second all-day event runs from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. Friday in the park, at 15th Street and Eastern Avenue and will include hot dogs and other food for lunch, provided by Tim Eversole of Bean Haus Bakery & Café.
(Pandemic safety note: The event is outdoors, City staff will be wearing masks, and masks and hand sanitizer will be available to anybody who needs them.)
Once again, it will feature tables staffed by members of the City’s Economic Development Department and Parks & Rec division, Read Ready Covington, and the Center, with plenty of brochures and pamphlets available.
This week, the event will feature additional attractions:
  • Photos: The Center for Great Neighborhoods will sponsor free portraits for families, kids, couples, and even pets. The photographer – Tashia from Lotus Lemon – will snap free 8x10 portraits (along with the digital files) from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Photos are first-come, first-serve.
  • Movie: Later, Covington Parks & Rec hosts Family Movie Night featuring the film, “A Dog’s Purpose.” The movie begins at sunset (about 7:30 p.m.).
  • Park input: Parks & Rec staff will be on hand to collect ideas about the pending redevelopment of Austinburg Park. For details, see HERE.
 Why? (A little context)
The “cookouts and conversations” events are part of an “activation plan” that Economic Development Director Tom West presented to the Covington Board of Commissions earlier this summer to bring energy, jobs, and opportunities to the Eastern Corridor.
The area includes all or part of the four neighborhoods – Austinburg, Eastside, Helentown, and Wallace Woods – and is loosely bordered by Bush Street to the north, 21st Street to the south, Madison Avenue to the west, and the Licking River to the east.
Parts of the area struggle to overcome challenges related to poverty, low property values, low rates of home ownership, vacant commercial buildings, and high demand for police service.
But promising signs have emerged, including the opening of the new Bean Haus Bakery & Café, the pending arrival of the headquarters of M&M Service Station Equipment Specialist in a renovated building, and work behind the scenes to find tenants and create opportunities at the former St. Elizabeth Hospital complex. 
Later this fall, Economic Development plans to unveil some new workforce training initiatives that it hopes will appeal to residents across Covington, especially in the Eastern Corridor.
“We’re pretty excited about all the things going on, and we want to engage business owners, entrepreneurs, and property owners in these and other projects,” Patten said. “We hope they come out Friday to be a part of it.”
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