A conceptual rendering that shows the levee park and public plaza, and how the parcels and buildings are meant to create a neighborhood feel.
New phase begins to reintegrate 23-acre ‘island’
with mix of office, commercial, residential and other uses
COVINGTON, Ky. – The transformation of the 23-acre former IRS site has entered a new phase – the City of Covington is seeking private developers for three parcels of land and a broker to market a fourth parcel.
The four parcels – all fronting Fourth Street – range in size from 13,000 square feet to 112,700 square feet (or 0.30 acres to 2.59 acres) and are identified for a variety of uses under a conceptual master plan for the new neighborhood.
As the first pieces of the site slated for development, the four will be key to reintegrating what was once a “fenced-off island” back into Covington, Economic Development Director Tom West said.
“With these proposals, we are looking to set the tone for the quality and style of the new neighborhood,” West said. “We want multiple owners, different architects, different materials, and new ideas and tenants. We’re not doing fake history – we want a 21st century version of the districts in Covington we all love.”
For three parcels, the City is looking for development proposals and purchase prices. For the fourth, it’s seeking real estate broker services.
West said price alone will not determine which developers are chosen. Those selections will be based on an array of factors, including how well the proposals meet the City’s objectives for the overall site, the experience of the teams, whether there is local involvement, and (for commercial uses) whether a tenant or tenants are in hand.
The requests for proposals (RFPs) can be seen on the City’s procurement portal. (Viewers will have to create a free Bonfire account to access the material.)
The four parcels are aligned west to east along Fourth Street, starting at the approach to the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge (Main Street) and ending just short of Madison Avenue:
- Block O: Approximately 2.59 acres or 112,700 square feet. (It once served as the west parking lot for the IRS.) The master plan envisions this containing office, commercial, and/or parking facilities, as well as a small amount of open space or park space. Proposals are due June 22.
- Block A: Approximately 0.86 acres or 37,300 square feet. The master plan envisions this parcel containing 13 single-family detached homes or live-over work dwellings on lots of about 2,890 square feet each. For this parcel, the City is seeking a broker to sell the individual lots to families or individuals, who will then hire their own builders. Proposals are due June 26.
- Block B: Approximately 0.88 acres or 38,400 square feet. The master plan envisions multiple buildings of townhouse-style housing with driveways or garages accessed from an alley behind the units. Live-over work structures will be considered. Proposals are due July 6.
- Block N: There are two options for this parcel. One is 0.3 acres or 13,000 square feet. The other is 0.69 acres or 30,100 square feet. The master plan does not identify a specific land use, but the City prefers a single-use or mixed-use development with office, commercial, retail, and/or entertainment facilities. Proposals are due June 29.
Recommendations are expected to be made by staff to the Covington Board of Commissioners in late July or early August.
The site, located just west of Madison Avenue and north of Fourth Street, was home to a sprawling IRS tax-processing facility for more than five decades. The facility closed in 2019, the City bought the site in 2020, and the building was demolished in 2022.
The City worked with nationally renowned consultant Cooper Carry and its team – which included Noelle Consulting, DaVinci Development, Woolpert and others – to create a conceptual master plan. The plan, which can be seen at the Covington Central Riverfront project website, calls for a mix of land uses, including office space, a hotel, apartments and other housing, a restored street grid, the expansion of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, parking garages, a public plaza, and a levee park.
Architectural firm KZF Design Inc. is leading a team engineering the “horizontal infrastructure,” which consists of parking, utilities, streets, alleys, sidewalks, parks, and other public gathering places. Construction of that infrastructure should begin later this year.
West said development of the four parcels can proceed now because they are served by existing utilities along Fourth and Johnson streets.
To learn more about the City’s vision for the site, read “For 55 years an ‘island,’ IRS site
to be woven back into urban fabric.”
From the beginning, the City’s process for transforming the site has been strategic and a little non-traditional. Rather than turn the entire 23 acres over a single developer, as it was suggested that the City do, officials want to create a neighborhood that connects seamlessly into its diverse surroundings, which include the downtown business district, the historic community of Old Town/Mutter Gottes, the Ohio River, a hotel and convention district, and the MainStrasse Village mixed-use area.
“There are many metrics of success,” West said. “But my metric of success is this: Does someone on the corner of Third and Russell 100 years from now look at this and say, ‘What an amazing historic district that is totally representational of the early 21st century’? But I won’t be around for that.”
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