A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Commons project takes another step forward, ‘Entertainment Destination Center’ proposed

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By Ryan Clark
Special to NKyTribune

Week by week, one of the city’s most long-awaited projects is getting closer to becoming reality.

Commissioners adopted an order Tuesday at their legislative meeting to enter into an agreement with contractors Woolpert, Inc. to prepare design construction ready documents for phase one of the Riverfront Commons project.

The plans will cost just under $136,000 and will be paid from bond funds. It should take about 60 days to complete, and when finished, the plans will also include bid documents, which means they will be immediately ready to be put out for bid for the design phase of the project.

While the original bid for the project went out in 2008, the city realized it would not be able to move forward with the original price tag, which could have been as much as $70 million.

Instead, in February, the commission determined it had $6.2 million for the project. So, it was scaled back considerably, and now it features a 50 percent smaller scale plaza and a lower elevation.

Woolpert, Inc. has worked with the city on various versions of the plans.

“Due to the city’s working relationship with Woolpert based on work previously contracted between the parties, Woolpert’s familiarity with the existing plans, and the desire to complete the project in a timely manner to preserve all available grant funding, city staff recommend contracting with Woolpert for the design services,” the city’s order reads.

“Let’s go with what we’ve got,” Mayor Joe Meyer was quoted as saying then. “It’s reality. This is the money we have. Let’s spend it while we have it.”

He noted that after the first phase is complete, the city can look at other philanthropic efforts to raise funding for more improvements.

Also Tuesday:

– Commissioners heard the first reading of an ordinance to establish an “Entertainment Destination Center” to aid economic growth and tourism in the city. An EDC, as they are called, require a license from the state ABC, as it “allows consumption of alcoholic beverages in public places within the boundaries of the EDC,” the ordinance reads. Currently, three EDC areas exist in the state – Fourth Street Live in Louisville, Newport on the Levee and The Summit at Fritz Farm in Lexington. As the ordinance reads, the EDC acts as an “umbrella,” over certain businesses, and it is permissible to take alcoholic drinks outside of bars and restaurants “within the EDC into the common areas and into other ABC licensed premises within the EDC area.” Rivercenter Entertainment Venues, LLC, which owns FIRE, Butler’s Pantry, and Biscuits to Burgers, would like to apply for the EDC license “to allow their patrons and customers to move freely between these businesses and throughout the plaza area directly south of the Rivercenter towers at a new EDC area to be named Piazza at Rivercenter.” A second reading and vote will be held in two weeks.

– Commissioners approved a contract for just under $21,000 with Groundwork Cincinnati, a nonprofit that employs high school students, to remove honeysuckle and other invasive plants from the Licking River Greenway Nature Trails, which run along the river from Randolph Park to a point near Holmes High School.

– Commissioners heard a presentation from the Linden Grove Cemetery Board of Overseers, who explained the improvements they have made over the past year, which included: creating a new entrance, adding a new parking lot, updating their brand and website, using their arboretum for educational opportunities, adding two new picnic areas and adding summer events (the performing of plays and the teaching of yoga lessons).

– Commissioners approved an ordinance to change Jefferson Ave. – less than 100 feet between 19th Street and Highland Pike – from a two-way street to one-way northbound.

– Commissioners approved an order to invite bids for the annual road resurfacing in parts of Latonia and South Covington.

– Commissioners approved the job descriptions for the positions of assistant city manager and city solicitor. Frank Warnock was approved for the position of assistant city manager and Michael Bartlett was approved for the position of interim city solicitor.

The next Covington Commission meeting will be a caucus meeting held at 6 p.m., March 20 at the Covington City Hall at 20 West Pike St.

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