City hires project manager for IRS site

The inside of the sprawling former IRS facility.

J.S. Held to oversee complex preparation of 23 acres for private development

COVINGTON, Ky. – Covington is hiring a global multi-disciplinary consulting firm to oversee the complex and time-intensive work of preparing the 23-acre former IRS site for private development.

J.S. Held is a familiar name.

The company has performed or is performing similar work for several projects in Covington (including the expansion of Hotel Covington on Madison Avenue and construction of the John R. Green Lofts in MainStrasse Village) and others in the region (including renovation of Newport on the Levee, renovation of Music Hall in Cincinnati, a 27.5-acre mixed-use redevelopment in Louisville, and the reimagination of the U.S. Playing Card facility in Norwood, Ohio).

Established in 1974, it has offices throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

It was one of three firms to respond to the City’s search for a project manager for the massive undertaking and was approved by the Covington City Commission this week.

“J.S. Held is a well-respected project manager and it’s going to be their job to drive the redevelopment of that site, led of course by our city manager and economic development director,” Mayor Joe Meyer said. “It’s hard for us to overstate the significance of this step.”

City Manager Ken Smith said part of the company’s attraction was that it does project management full time and does not pair that work with being a developer, designer or real estate broker. Thus it can completely fill the role as “the City’s representative” in the truest sense of that phrase.

“They will provide the high level of expertise and capacity that will help us jump-start the redevelopment of the IRS site,” Smith said. “With all the momentum in the city, and with the need to provide services to residents on a day-to-day basis, obviously City staff already have a full plate.”

Among J.S. Held’s responsibilities will be helping to manage and coordinate the project’s budget, schedule, safety, contracts, compliance, demolition, and construction.

Some of the first steps will be to seek proposals for three massive tasks:

  • Demolition of the sprawling facility and surrounding pavement.
  • Removal of environmental problems discovered on the site, including asbestos in the buildings, three underground storage tanks, and an underground concrete vault.
  • And engineering and design of so-called horizontal infrastructure, including restoration of the street grid, sidewalks, water and sewer lines, storm drainage systems, gas, electric, and communications.

The process of securing professional services contracts for that work will happen “posthaste,” Smith said.

About the site

  • The bulk of the property lies just north of Fourth Street between Madison Avenue to the east and Johnson Street to the west, with an adjacent parking lot west of Johnson reaching the approach to the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.
  • Once the City’s largest employer, the IRS operated a tax-processing facility there for 52 years before closing in September 2019. The City closed on the purchase of the property from the federal government in August 2020.
  • In the past year, the City has – among other things – secured over 1,500 pages of reports on the environmental challenges of the site and worked with the Commonwealth of Kentucky to create funding mechanisms for site preparation.
  • A conceptual plan created by Atlanta-based consultant Cooper Carry calls for a restored street grid; a levee park; a community plaza for festivals; a mixture of buildings containing offices, retail shops, hotels, and residential units; and expansion of the adjacent Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

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