As seen from the east, the former IRS “Flat Top” dominates the 23-acre Central Covington Riverfront site.
5½-month demolition of IRS facility begins today
COVINGTON, Ky. – A Caterpillar 365 excavator will approach the former IRS data-processing facility sometime today and – with a ferocious swipe of its bucket – rip off the southern edge of the 1960s-era “Flat Top.”
The clatter of the excavator’s tracks and the crashing cascade of roof and brick will mark the ceremonial beginning to what is expected to be a 5½-month demolition.
At the same time, it will signal both the crushing end of a 55-year era and the fascinating new phase in the evolution of Covington’s downtown: A 23-acre site now dominated by a vacant, sprawling one-story facility that once was home to Covington’s largest employer will soon transform into a bustling mixed-use complex.
The vision? A restored street grid, hotel and office space, apartments and condominiums, restaurants and retail spaces, parking garages, a public plaza, and a levee park overlooking the Ohio River.
“Generations from now, when people talk about ‘Covington,’ this complex will dominate their impression,” Mayor Joe Meyer said. “We’ve been working on an array of exciting initiatives over the last few years, but nothing compares to this project in magnitude and long-term impact.”
The federal government shuttered the facility – which opened in 1967 and employed some 4,000 people in its heyday – in late 2019 as it fell victim to the trend toward electronic tax filings.
Stung by the loss of jobs and tax revenue but enthralled by the site’s immense footprint, the City purchased the complex in 2020 after months of negotiation. (One East Coast commercial developer went so far as to call the site one of “the most exciting land redevelopment opportunities between Baltimore and New Orleans.”)
Over the last few years, a steady progression of efforts and expensive investigation have produced a conceptual master plan, revealed an array of environmental issues, established new zoning, secured a bond issue and other funding, yielded preliminary approval for a state financing plan for site preparation costs, salvaged useful items, and set the stage for today’s demolition.
Joining Mayor Meyer at the microphone for brief remarks at the ceremony – which was kept small because of safety concerns – will be an official from O’Rourke Wrecking.
“This region is our home, so we understand the historical significance of this project and we’re excited to be a part of it,” said Jeff Sizemore, operations vice president of the Cincinnati-based demolition company. “Today, we’re thrilled to get on with it and start removing the ‘old’ to create a blank canvas for the ‘new.’ By year’s end, this site’s extensive size and potential will be visible to all.”
The Covington Central Riverfront Project page found on the City’s website explains the location of the site, the vision for it, the history of the IRS complex, and the behind-the-scenes work to date, plus includes photo albums. As demolition proceeds, this webpage will serve as a repository for news and updates and more photographs.
Here is also a PROJECT TIMELINE.
The bulk of the site – about 20.5 acres – lies just north of Fourth Street between Madison Avenue to the east and Johnson Street to the west, with the adjacent 2.5-acre parking lot west of Johnson reaching the approach to the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.
Covington expects to hire a design-engineering team this month or next to draw up plans for a restored street grid and sidewalks, upgraded utilities, and other “horizontal” infrastructure on the 23 acres. That design will likely be finished in early 2023 with construction on that infrastructure to start soon thereafter and last approximately two years.
Meanwhile, these details were released at a recent meeting with neighbors held by the City, O’Rourke, and J.S. Held, the global consulting firm serving as project manager:
- PROJECTED SCHEDULE: O’Rourke expects to finish demolishing the 17.5-acre building(s) and surrounding asphalt parking lots by Aug. 26, re-grade the site by Sept. 16, spread grass seed and straw mulch by Sept. 23, and turn the cleared site over to the City on Sept. 30.
- HOURS OF OPERATION: 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Crews will work a few partial Saturdays to clear the eastern-most portion of the site abutting Learning Grove-River Center child-care to minimize impact on its operations during the week.
- IMPACT ON SURROUNDING AREAS: The demolition of the one-story structures will be controlled and -- given that the buildings contain very little concrete – not a lot of dust will be produced, Sizemore said. The asphalt pavement will be torn up last to reduce the mud that will be tracked onto streets. A sweeper on site will clean the entrances and surrounding streets on a daily basis.
- TRUCK ROUTE: Most of the loaded dump trucks will leave the site and immediately head west on West Fourth Street and cross the Ohio River on the Clay Wade Bailey or Brent Spence bridges. A few trucks carrying scrap metal will head east to Newport.
- SALVAGE: Items of value have already been removed, including decorative signs and other items wanted by City officials, hundreds of feet of oak railing, boilers, cooling fans and other such items.
- ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS: Asbestos and mercury-containing devices have already been removed from the building. Three underground fuel tanks and an underground concrete vault once used for oil will be removed after state inspectors test any contents and surrounding soil.
- BUS STOP: The bus stop at Fourth and Russell streets has been moved almost a block west.
- SITE CONTACTS: As shown by signs on the fences surrounding the site, questions and concerns can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or (513) 871-1400. To receive updates about the project and other City news in your email inbox, sign up for CITY OF COVINGTON EMAILS or follow the City on Facebook, @covingtonkygov.
“We are dedicated to making this a smooth demolition,” Sizemore said, “and we will do everything in our power to mitigate the impact on the surrounding community.”
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