Covington breaks ground on mixed-use development at former IRS site

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


Nearly two years ago, O’Rourke Wrecking crews busted a hole into the wall of the derelict Internal Revenue Service processing center, which had sat vacant since 2020.

Today, the building’s demolition is complete. The former IRS site is now a barren 23-acre plot awaiting development. The city’s plan is to transform the site into a mixed-use development, complete with offices, housing, retail, a public plaza and parks. Its name? The Covington Central Riverfront project.

The development is part of what Covington Economic Development Director Tom West calls the “$5 billion mile” — a grouping of public and private investments spanning from Covington to Newport that promises to reinvigorate the Northern Kentucky riverfront.

The city hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the new project on Tuesday, during which city leaders touted its economic viability and potentially transformative impact. Covington Mayor Joe Meyer said the city’s vision was to create a new neighborhood on the site – one that would weave into the existing fabric of the city.

“We saw the opportunity to unwind the urban renewal mindset of the 60s with a vision of the creation of a new neighborhood that would reintegrate with the urban fabric,” Meyer said. “A neighborhood that would complement Mutter Gottes, MainStrasse, Roebling Point and Licking Riverside – a neighborhood that would be authentic, reestablish the urban grid to ensure connectivity, that would be mixed-use, like all the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The IRS processing center was once an economic powerhouse within the city, employing thousands of people. It was promised to the city by then-President John F. Kennedy to Congressman Brent Spence, according to Meyer.

“The IRS center was viewed as Covington’s salvation during the 1960s,” Meyer said. “It promised to bring suburban amenities and a lot of jobs to a city losing its economic base and population to the appeal of suburbanization.”

After 62 years, IRS shut down the center in 2016 due to technological obsolescence in the age of online tax filing. Meyer said the city was “gobsmacked” by the agency’s announcement.

Fast-forward eight years, and Covington is on the verge of undertaking one of the largest economic development projects in the city’s history.

“I think long term, the way we’re approaching this is going to be more sustainable over time,” West said. “It’s going to be a neighborhood again that will become part of that Covington we all love.”

Over the winter, 27,000 cubic yards of fill dirt were moved onto the site to raise its profile to the height of the Ohio River floodwall. Now, Alexandria-based Bray Construction is set to begin building out the development’s horizontal infrastructure, including adding streets, sidewalks, utilities and a public plaza.

The next steps in developing the site’s horizontal infrastructure will be to add an additional 30,000 cubic yards of fill soil, lay new sanitary and storm sewer lines under the entire 23 acres, lay gas, electric, water, and communications lines, restore the street grid between Third and Fourth streets, and build out the median/public plaza space near a new Russell Street promenade.

The first round of infrastructure construction is expected to be completed by September 2025.

“We are excited to take all the planning and hard work done to this point and begin making the project a reality for the city” said Scott Fryman, senior project manager at Bray.

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In March, several key developments regarding the site were published. On March 13, LINK nky reported that Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law and a branch of the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine could open at the site. A draft of the state’s biennial budget outlined $150 million worth of funding for the project. The legislature approved the appropriation.

Northern Kentucky state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ryland Heights), who chairs the Kentucky Senate Appropriations Committee, spoke at Tuesday’s groundbreaking.

“It has not been a short journey nor an easy one and certainly sometimes the hardest thing is just getting the first shovel in the ground,” McDaniel said.

On March 26, Fort Mitchell-based homebuilder Drees Homes and the City of Covington entered into an agreement to buy land and develop 16 townhomes on a .88-acre block of land.

This story is republished from LINK nky.

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