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State moving some 200 employees from downtown Covington to Latonia, makes way for Gateway

By Greg Paeth
NKyTribune Contributor

Sometime this fall, a couple of hundred state employees who work in the heart of downtown Covington are scheduled to move into a new office building that’s almost directly across 43rd Street from the Kroger supermarket in Latonia.

If things progress as planned, the new $2 million building with about 55,000 square feet of floor space should be completed in September, according to builder William Fowler, whose company, Bill Fowler Construction, is headquartered in Danville.

The exodus by some 200 state employees to the new building will clear the way for redevelopment of what had been the Covington YMCA building by Gateway Community and Technical College, which plans to spend in excess of $80 million on its urban campus in what was once Northern Kentucky’s largest business district.

“I’m glad we’re keeping all of those jobs in Covington and this should be good for Latonia,” said Covington City Manager Larry Klein. Although the building will house state offices, it’s being built by a private developer who will lease space to the state.

State office complex under construction in Latonia. (Photos by Greg Paeth)

State office complex under construction in Latonia. (Photos by Greg Paeth)

“That means that there will be additional real estate tax revenue for the city,” Klein said.

He also pointed out that the Gateway renovation of the YMCA building should produce some additional jobs downtown once that project is completed.

A construction crew has started work on the Gateway bookstore at the southeast corner of Pike Street and Madison Avenue. The bookstore, which will be operated by Barnes & Noble, will be in the building that had been home to the Literacy In Northern Kentucky (LINK) program in a former bank building at 614 Madison Ave.

The bookstore will occupy the first two floors while the third floor will be renovated to become offices for the president and other administrators, according to Michelle Sjogren, director of communications for Gateway. The building will be open in early October, she said. 

The bookstore-administration building project and the Professional Services Center at 438 Scott were bid as one project, which has a budget of $3.9 million, Sjogren said. The Professional Services Center houses the college’s cosmetology and massage therapy programs and a student led business, Emerge.

The YMCA building wraps around two sides of the bookstore on Pike Street and Madison Avenue. Gateway acquired the YMCA building for $2.8 million and initially estimated that the renovation would cost about $3.8 million.

Sjogren said that programs likely to be located in the building are a second college assessment center and programs to support training needed for companies and businesses in the urban core of the region, as part of Gateway’s corporate college and workforce solutions department. The college will begin working with architects to identify how the intended programs will fit the space – about 64,000 square feet — as part of the next phase of the development of the urban campus, Sjogren said. She said planning should be completed by December 2015.

A state construction progress report says the new building in Latonia should be completed in November, said Jill Midkiff, a spokesperson for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The employees who will move from 624 Madison are in the cabinet’s division of protection and permanency, which handles complaints about child and adult abuse and neglect as well as the foster care and adoption programs, according to Midkiff.

The Family Services office at 19 E. Pike provides support services such as food stamps, medical assistance and welfare.

The single-story building in Latonia butts up against another building lot owned by Fowler, who said he might begin building on that property next spring.

Old YMCA Building in downtown Covington. (Photo courtesy Kenton County Library)

Old YMCA Building in downtown Covington. (Photo courtesy Kenton County Library)

He said he had intended to begin that project while he was working on the building that will be leased to the state for its offices, but that another building project in Morehead has become a higher priority for his company.

Fowler said he has been hampered in Latonia by a series of thefts from the building site, including a low-slung trailer that could be pulled by a pickup truck and the bucket off of a backhoe that had been parked at the site. He said thieves also have hauled off lumber and “anything metal” that could be sold for its scrap value.

Fowler said he has moved some equipment closer to 43rd Street in hopes that the higher visibility might discourage the thieves.

Gateway’s plan to build an urban campus downtown involves the renovation of some older buildings downtown as well as new construction in the 600 block of Scott Street, where a building that once housed a Buick-Pontiac showroom has been demolished.

A number of city officials have been highly supportive of the urban campus project, saying that it could prove to be transformative for a downtown business district that has faced huge obstacles for decades.

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