Come Monday, CCR work moves from deconstruction to construction

Bray to build site’s infrastructure; Drees to follow with first homes

COVINGTON, Ky. – Less than two years after an O’Rourke Wrecking excavator punched the first hole in the sprawling IRS “Flat Top” complex, the City of Covington has announced two milestones in the pending transformation of what is now a cleared field into a 23-acre mixed-used neighborhood full of offices, housing, retail, and a public plaza and parks.

  • Come Monday, Bray Construction Services will break ground on Phase 1 of public infrastructure at the site, a $14.9 million contract that will include streets, sidewalks, utilities, and a public plaza.
  • Upon completion of the initial residential portion of development, Drees Homes will build 16 townhomes as part of the $7 million development of what’s called “Block B,” a sliver of land encompassing 0.88 acres fronting Fourth Street just east of Russell Street.

After years of demolition and planning, Bray’s work will represent the first step toward actually building the new neighborhood.

And the Drees announcement is the first of many as developers are selected for various parts of the site. Rather than turn the entire 23 acres over to a single developer to give rein to that developer’s vision, Covington officials have subdivided the site into 27 parcels with plans to hire separate developers (with a focus on local, small, diverse developers) to implement a conceptual master plan that took a full year and lots of public input to create.

“In terms of substantive decision making by this Commission, this has been an extraordinary meeting,” Mayor Joe Meyer said Tuesday evening after the Covington Board of Commissioners approved the selection of Bray and Drees. “This has been a dream and a challenge and it’s been a lot of hard work, so this is a day where we quite frankly ought to celebrate the accomplishment and thank the staff and the support people for all the work they’ve done to get us to the point where we are turning the dream into a reality.”

As further steps toward developing what is temporarily being called the Covington Central Riverfront, the Board of Commissioners also approved the hiring of Terracon Consultants for geotechnical oversight and testing and approved an $18.1 million bond anticipation note. The issuance of the note, a financing mechanism that represents a short-term bridge to a longer-term bond debt, will enable the infrastructure work to begin.

Covington Economic Development Director Tom West called the announcements the news City officials have long anticipated.

“From the beginning of the master planning process, I know how the Board of Commissioners had anxiously awaited the day when we would start the actual redevelopment process,” West said. “After just a few short years, that day is here.”

About the agreements:

Bray Construction

With the massive IRS complex removed and environmental concerns like underground storage tanks addressed, the site right now is a cleared field on which the City has been accumulating fill dirt.

A team led by KZF Design Inc. created a plan to prepare it for private development by installing “horizontal infrastructure,” and Bray will implement Phase 1 of that plan over the next 16 months.

The infrastructure work will include:

  • Importing an additional 30,000 cubic yards of fill soil.
  • Laying new (separated) sanitary and storm sewer lines under the entire 23 acres.
  • Laying gas, electric, water, and communications lines on the lower half of the site (south of Third Street).
  • Restoring the street grid between Third and Fourth streets.
  • And building the median/public plaza space near a new Russell Street promenade.

Phase 2, which will be publicly bid further down the line, includes the rest of the underground utilities; a parking garage below the development; a public park with views from the top of the levee; sidewalks and other “finish” amenities. And Phase 3 will focus on the north side of the levee wall, connecting the CCR development to the new multi-mile Riverfront Commons walk/bike trail and extending the park platform north from the levee, further improving the Ohio River views.

The City selected Bray from four companies that replies during a formal RFP process. Based in Alexandria, the company has done or is doing infrastructure work throughout the region, including the Anderson Town Centre, Montgomery Quarter, and the NKU Connector Road.

“Bray Construction is honored to have been selected by the City of Covington for this pivotal project and eagerly anticipates the opportunity to contribute our expertise and dedication towards its success,” said Scott Fryman, Senior Project Manager. “We are ready to get to work and deliver exceptional results for the community that we live, work, and play in.”

Drees Homes

Under its development agreement with the City, Drees will pay $2.016 million for the site.

Founded in 1928 and based in Fort Mitchell, the home builder is the 18th largest private home builder in the United States and operates across nine states.

As the public infrastructure on the Covington site is installed, the company will begin building the townhomes, which will be located in four clusters of four, all fronting Fourth Street, as seen in Block B on this Central Riverfront subdivided map.

Homes will be two and three stories tall and have three bedrooms with the option of having two larger suites. They will have two-car garages with the access from the rear of the homes, plus semi-private courtyards.

More details will be announced later by Drees, said Northern Kentucky Division President Ben Taylor.

Officials from both Drees and the City were thrilled with the partnership.

“The Drees Company has invested in Northern Kentucky neighborhoods for more than 95 years,” Taylor said. “After several past projects in Covington, we are thrilled to be selected for this unique opportunity to bring new homes to the heart of the city’s vibrant scene. We look forward to collaborating with the City to launch this innovative new neighborhood at Covington’s Central Riverfront site.”

Meyer pointed to townhomes on Shelby Street and ranch-style houses on 18th Street as examples of the company’s work “at a time when nobody else was willing to try to build new housing in Covington.”

“So it’s really great to know that a company – when there was a need in Covington in the bad-ol’ days – they really stepped up to try to make the neighborhood nicer and give more opportunities, and now that we have this extraordinary opportunity in the city, they’re willing to step up again to help put us over the finish line not just with their construction but by putting their reputation on the line that this is a project that we will all be proud of and we’ll be successful with,” Meyer said.

West told Commissioners that the City expected to take in about $33,000 in property tax a year from the townhomes and earn about $1.4 million through separate local and state tax-increment-financing districts. That money would be used to pay off debt for the CCR demolition and infrastructure.

“This is just the first of many types and sizes of housing that will be developed in this new neighborhood,” West said.

Site history

The 23-acre site, located just west of Madison Avenue and north of Fourth Street, was home to a sprawling one-story IRS tax-processing facility for more than five decades. As told in a 2020 City of Covington news release titled “$1 grows to $20.5 million,” the City had assembled the site from 161 properties in its aggressive attempt to woo the federal government.

The attempt successful, the processing facility opened May 15, 1967, and would employ about 4,000 full-time and seasonal workers during its heyday. But the facility was decommissioned in 2019, the City bought the site in 2020, and the building was demolished by O’Rourke Wrecking in 2022.

During that time, the City worked with the public and Atlanta-based consultant Cooper Carry to create a conceptual master plan for a mixed-use site seamlessly integrated into the surrounding commercial and residential districts. It also worked to address environmental and archaeological concerns and with an engineering and architectural team led by KZF Design to design the so-called horizontal infrastructure of the site.

More about the site and its history, as well as the City’s master plan and conceptual renderings, can be found at Covington Central Riverfront.

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