Making downtown more inviting to business

City officials believe Seventh Street in particular could be more inspiring to businesses and visitors.

Streetscape ‘refresh’ of Madison, Seventh blocks set to begin

COVINGTON, Ky. – On any given night, hundreds of visitors to The Cov walk near the intersection of Madison Avenue and Seventh Street – drawn by Hotel Covington, The Madison Event Center, the taproom at Braxton Brewing Co., an array of restaurants and bars, and periodic festivals. 

But judging from the broken sidewalks and curbs, deteriorated pavement, and run-down landscaping, downtown Covington is not putting its best face forward – not to out-of-town visitors, not to prospective businesses, and not to talented workers looking for a new job or a loft apartment.

Soon that will change.

Using primarily federal funds funneled through state government, Covington will give three blocks of Madison and three blocks of Seventh a major refresh by pouring new sidewalks, moving utility lines underground, resurfacing streets, designing more efficient parking, and making a host of other improvements.

The separate but related projects have been in the planning stages for several years, delayed again and again by red tape, inflation, and the post-pandemic challenges.

“This will be a game-changer,” City Manager Ken Smith said. “This area of downtown has been bursting with private investment and energy, but our public infrastructure – both how it looks and how it functions – has not kept up. In fact, it’s downright dreadful. We’ve put off upgrades for several years as we’ve waited somewhat impatiently to kick off this rehab, and we look forward to actually getting started.”

The Covington Board of Commissioners, who awarded contracts for engineering design work to WSP USA back in 2020, recently approved contracts with Adleta Construction for both projects, which will focus on Madison Avenue between Eighth and 11th streets and Seventh Street between Washington and Greenup streets.

No General Fund money

Adleta’s bids – roughly $2.96 million for the Madison Avenue project and $3.33 million for the Seventh Street project – were the lowest responsible proposals in response to the City’s request for bids.

No General Fund money will be used for the improvements, Smith said.

Some 80 percent of the costs will be paid using federal Surface Transportation Program funds for Northern Kentucky funneled through the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The 20 percent local match will be paid from the City’s TIF budget, which is funded with future growth in tax revenue and by law must be spent on infrastructure that nurtures economic development.

Adleta told the City its first crew will arrive the first week of December, with a second crew arriving the next week, Covington Public Works Director Keith Bales said. Work will start at East Seventh and Greenup and move west, and at Madison and 11th and work north.

The work could last a year but will be staged to minimize disruption to surrounding businesses and parking.

“The demolition and construction will impact the surrounding area, but not as much as you would think, since it’ll be done in stages,” said Covington Assistant Public Works Director Bill Matteoli.

The City will be sending notices to businesses with details and contact information.


The work will include:

  • New sidewalks, including wider sidewalks on Seventh between Washington and Madison.
  • Underground utilities.
  • Rebuilt curbs.
  • Street resurfacing.
  • “Bump outs” on Madison and on Seventh near the “Arcade” tunnel that leads to Pike Street.
  • Angled parking on Seventh Street.
  • A decorative paver band between the sidewalk and street in some places.
  • Tree wells.
  • New signal poles and street lights.

On Madison Avenue, the project will extend previous streetscape work that reached from Fourth Street to Eighth Street. Similar streetscape projects focused on Sixth Street and Scott Boulevard.

Tangible payoff

Smith said the new look of the Madison-Seventh area will leave visitors with a greatly improved image of Covington, one that matches the energy and attractions of the area.

But it’s not just about tourism.

Investment in improving the “look” and “feel” of two critical downtown streets will have direct and tangible payoff in the vibrancy of the local business climate and future tax revenue that funds City services for taxpayers, said Economic Development Director Tom West. That’s because whether an area is seen as inviting and walkable can have a huge impact on whether businesses locate there, jobs are created there, and talented workers take those jobs and decide to live downtown.

In addition, the projects show the City stepping up to match the private investment in the area.

“Over the past several years we have seen the private sector make major investments along Seventh Street with popular spots like Rich’s Proper, Hotel Covington, Braxton Brewery, The Well, and others, so it is time for the City to complement that investment with a refresh of the streetscape and a reconfiguration of the parking,” West said. “This is our way of adding to the curb appeal in a district that is critical in our efforts to attract jobs and businesses to Covington.”

In addition, City officials hope the project will help propel the economic momentum that’s enlivened downtown to move further south along Madison and eventually into neighborhood business districts, West said.

“Those blocks between Eighth and 11th are starting to see more private investment, so this is our chance to complete the ‘Madison Mile’ and encourage redevelopment.”

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