Construction trailers, design RFP signal progress on IRS site

COVINGTON, Ky. – The long and complex process of transforming the vacant 23-acre IRS site into a reimagined neighborhood jumped forward this week on parallel tracks – one visible to the public and one all but behind the scenes.

O’Rourke Wrecking Company moved construction trailers to the site as it plans to begin removing asbestos and underground fuel tanks next week, kicking off seven months of environmental remediation and demolition.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, 31 firms have already downloaded documents related to a formal search for a design-engineering team to draw up plans for a restored street grid, new sidewalks, upgraded utilities, and other “horizontal infrastructure” at the site.

The City of Covington, working with its project manager, J.S. Held, issued a request for proposals on Tuesday seeking a firm to oversee completion of the various engineering and design tasks. By Dec. 1, the City hopes to begin searching for a construction firm to implement those drawings.

“We’ve said all along that we’re not going to sit on the site,” City Manager Ken Smith said. “We’re following an aggressive but feasible timeline toward development that requires critical phases to be done simultaneously.”

The IRS was once Covington’s largest employer, but the federal government gradually decreased the number of employees working there and shuttered the facility in fall 2019.

Details about the site’s history, its features, and the City’s plans can be seen on the City’s webpage, HERE.

'Shovel ready'

The conceptual plan for what’s now known as the Covington Central Riverfront Project calls for a mix of land uses, including office space, a hotel, apartments and condominiums, and the possible expansion of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. It also includes parking, a public plaza, and a levee park.

Before the City markets pieces of the site to private developers, it wants the ground “ready to go,” hence the RFP for design-engineering.

The RFP can be seen on the City’s procurement portal HERE. Questions are due by March 16, with answers provided by March 25, and the deadline for submitting proposals is noon April 1.

Officials from the City and J.S. Held will evaluate the proposals, with the Board of Commissioners ultimately choosing the firm.

“Horizontal infrastructure” includes all the foundation for development, including restoration of a street grid that was erased in the 1960s when the City assembled 161 parcels and sold the site to the federal government for $1.

Other infrastructure includes sidewalks, water, sanitary and storm sewers, gas and electric, and telecommunications.

Clearing the site

The Board of Commissioners voted last month to hire O’Rourke Wrecking for just under $1.3 million to demolish the sprawling one-story “Flat Top” complex, rip up the asphalt and concrete pavement laid throughout its 23 acres, and remediate environmental problems related to hazardous materials. Actual demolition won’t begin until mid-April.

Remediation includes asbestos in the main building, three underground storage tanks, and an underground concrete vault.

O’Rourke is also salvaging items at the complex. After buying the complex from the federal government, the City removed items like compressors that its Public Works and others could use. O’Rourke will remove other items – such fencing, decorative metal lettering, signs, clocks, and the cornerstone – for City use.

But then on a much larger scale, the firm will repurpose, salvage and sell, and/or recycle a large assortment of items and materials. That was part of the demo RFP and led to a substantial reduction in the contractual price, as is normal on large-scale projects such as this.

The work is scheduled to be completed Oct. 7, barring unusual weather delays.

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