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Last chance to host, attend civic dinners for Cov IRS site; more details on Suspension Bridge fix

NKyTribune staff

Covington residents have a last chance to host or attend dinner parties designed to nurture public conversation about the future of the 23-acre Internal Revenue Service site after the IRS leaves this fall.

Nearly 140 people have gathered with friends (and sometimes strangers) at Civic Dinners in Covington to discuss what should go on the soon-to-be-vacant 23-acre IRS site. (Photos courtesy of Civic Dinners)

Called “Civic Dinners,” the trendy public outreach tool is being used by a City-hired consultant to give residents and others a chance to weigh in how the site should be developed.

Close to 140 people have attended over a dozen dinners so far, helping to create a “buzz” about the IRS site and its potential, said Jenn Graham, co-founder and CEO of Civic Dinners, which is working with master consultant Cooper Carry on the IRS project.

“The comments we’ve collected so far paint a picture for a truly reconnected Covington and the input gathered is being processed by the Cooper Carry team as they design their first round of concepts for the space,” Graham said. “It was very exciting to read the quotes collected during the various discussions.”

Graham said many people enjoy Civic Dinners because conversation around dinner and drinks tends to be more productive and inviting than it would be in a 200-seat assembly hall or a Facebook comment section.

Graham said the Civic Dinner process is being kept open through the end of May.

To host a dinner or attend one that’s already scheduled, click the “Reconnect Covington” webpage.

The website includes a description of the dinners and a guidebook for any host, including a handful of questions to guide the discussion.

“It’s not too late to have your vision included in the ideation phase,” Graham said. “Feel free to host a dinner or join one.”

The IRS announced in 2016 that it would close its paper-processing facility in Covington in fall 2019. The sprawling, one-story complex takes up about 17 acres between Fourth and Third streets, with parking on an additional 6 acres. The site is controlled by the federal General Services Administration, but consultant Cooper Carry is helping Covington not only create a conceptual master plan for the site but also develop a strategy to gain development control.

Suspension Bridge fix likely months away

Even an expedited, emergency repair of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge will likely take a couple of months, Covington leaders said after hearing an update from state highway officials about the closed bridge.

The Suspension Bridge’s roadway and its upriver sidewalk were blocked off April 17 after sandstone fragments – including a chunk “large enough to have killed someone” – fell from the east side of the bridge’s north tower, Covington Mayor Joe Meyer said.

As first reported in the NKyTribune, Meyer said at the Covington City Commission meeting Tuesday night that he had talked to Chief District Engineer Robert Yeager of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet earlier in the day to get an update.

While Yeager was unable yet to provide a specific timetable, Meyer said it was obvious that it would take at least six to eight weeks – if not longer – to figure out a repair plan, get bids, and do the repair.

“We appreciate that state highway officials are working hard to get the Suspension Bridge reopen as soon as possible, but nevertheless we’ve been taking every opportunity to reiterate the importance of the bridge to Covington businesses and commuters,” Mayor Meyer said.

Meyer said he was told that the Cabinet was coincidentally already planning to address the crumbling sandstone on the towers next spring through an $8 million repair project that is currently in the design phase.

The same consultant now is working on developing “temporary remedies” that would allow the bridge to reopen as soon as possible, the state said.

Both projects are complicated by the 152-year-old bridge’s weight limit and its status as a National Historic Landmark.

More than 8,000 cars a day travel the bridge, carrying commuters, shoppers and visitors between Covington and Cincinnati. It’s also an important crossing for pedestrians, with foot traffic particularly heavy on game days for the Cincinnati Reds.

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