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Covington Business Council rolls out new plan for enhanced services to downtown — COV NOW

The Covington Business Council plans to roll out a new initiative designed to bring enhanced services and programs to downtown Covington.

At its next monthly luncheon on Wednesday, March 27, local business owners and CBC officials will make a presentation and answer questions about a Business Improvement District (BID) that is being proposed for downtown Covington. The luncheon starts at 11:30 a.m. at the Madison Event Center at 700 Madison Avenue in Covington.

A BID is a geographic area where property owners agree to pay a special property assessment to pay for services and programs in this area beyond what the city already provides. These services and programs are designed to enhance public spaces, assist in business retention and attraction, and ensure the economic vitality of the area.

The CBC is inviting downtown Covington business stakeholders and other interested persons to attend this program to learn more about the proposed district.

The presentation at the luncheon about the initiative will include information on how it will be funded and by whom, the enhanced services and programs that are expected to be provided by it, how it will be governed, and other important information, said Tony Milburn, president of the CBC Foundation and a member of the CBC Strategic Initiatives Committee, which has been studying this issue for several months.

“The CBC board wanted to hold an event devoted solely to this initiative so we could share with as many people as possible our vision of providing enhanced services and programs in downtown Covington,” Milburn said.

Nationwide, more than 1,500 business improvements districts operate in U.S. cities, including districts currently operating in Lexington and Louisville in Kentucky and in Cincinnati. “We want to create our own improvement district to make Covington more competitive, attractive, safe, and vibrant community,” said Milburn, who owns 10 commercial properties in downtown Covington in the proposed BID area.

For the past three years, the CBC has spent approximately $100,000 a year — through grants it has acquired and its own funding — to contract with a company to pick up litter, remove graffiti, and water and tend to planters in the Central Business District, said CBC Executive Director Pat Frew. During the past three years, Frew estimates that this program removed more than 100,000 tons of trash and 2,000 incidents of graffiti from downtown streets.

“Many of our businesses have made it very clear that they want to continue seeing these enhanced services, but our funding sources to continue them is not sustainable,” Frew said, adding that the foundations that have funded the organization’s “clean and green” program in the past have told the CBC that this funding will be discontinued in the future.

“The creation of a downtown business improvement district could provide regular and reliable funding for these enhanced services and programs, not just in the Central Business District but throughout the entire BID district,” Milburn said.

Over the years, several City of Covington-produced plans have specifically called for the creation of a downtown BID, including the city’s 21st Century Strategic Plan, the citizen-driven strategic plan adopted in 2007, and the Covington City Center Action Plan, a U.S. Housing & Urban Development-funded plan completed in 2012.

Last year, the CBC hired Yard & Company, an urban-growth firm, to conduct an economic development priority analysis within the city by interviewing numerous business owners. “That study found that most Covington business stakeholders want to see improvements in the downtown area that realistically can only be accomplished or enhanced through the creation of a BID and the funding it generates,” Frew said.

Only commercial property owners within the proposed BID would pay annual assessments and an independent board of directors consisting of these commercial property owners actually would run the district, he said.

“In creating the governance structure of this district, we listened to our business stakeholders and city officials, both of whom make it clear that they wanted this organization run by the people who actually paying the annual assessment,” Milburn said.

Under the proposed governance structure, the City of Covington, Kenton County, the CBC, and Renaissance Covington would appoint representatives to the board, but they would serve only as ex officio members and would not have voting powers.

The CBC will outline many other details of the proposed BID, including the specific areas it will cover and the cost of the proposed assessment for commercial property owners, at its March 27 luncheon.

Early-registration pricing of $20 a person is available if registration for the event is made by March 21.

To pre-register for the event, visit this website and click on “CBC March Luncheon” or call 859-431-1500. Seating is limited.

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