360 Fireworks Party

Thursday, May 3, 2012


by Michael Monks 
The third part of the Center City Action plan focuses on "strong neighborhoods".
Suggestions include parking meters for Mainstrasse, zoning changes, and a database of vacant, available spaces for new businesses. Click it. 
The second part of the plan to revitalize Downtown Covington focuses on creating open and green spaces for the community with recommendations that include a trail system through the town and dramatic lighting displays on historic industrial infrastructure. Details at the link. 
Center City Action Plan Part Two 
Denver-based Progressive Urban Management Associates writes in its newly drafted Covington Center City Action Plan: 
Strong neighborhoods are a critical component of a vital community.  Diverse housing options, well maintained infrastructure and a safe environment are all important features of strong neighborhoods that will ultimately contribute to the sustained economic growth of Center City. 
During the eight-month planning process, PUMA and its partners sent representatives to meet with neighborhood groups connected to the designated Center City and sought out what it called "quick wins", a tangible, immediate, and noticeable positive change. In the plan, PUMA notes "planning fatigue", a condition experienced by Covington citizens after a decade of seemingly constant planning that resulted in limited return. One recent example is the Arts & Technology District, a highly lauded effort to attract creative artists and tech companies to Pike Street in the middle of the last decade. In 2011, the City Commission voted to rezone the district back into the central business district, and plans to reassign the Arts District manager. From PUMA: 

Center City residents are fatigued by a recent legacy of planning with mixed results – it is important to demonstrate that the Action Plan will create immediate change, improvements and momentum. Strong neighborhoods support strong business districts and vice versa. Neighborhoods that are safe, well maintained and well connected, will provide stability, appeal to new residents and encourage greater investment.   
At a meeting earlier this year with Mainstrasse and Mutter Gottes residents, a representative from one of PUMA's locally-based partner in developing the CCCAP heard from more than one vocal resident that code enforcement standards need to be raised and more action needs to be taken on troublesome properties and their owners. From the plan: 

Establish a “Code Enforcement Blitz”: Neighborhood Enhancement Program – A ninety-day blitz of City services as part of a partnership between the City and the neighborhoods to address blight, crime and other nuisances, to kick-start long-term neighborhood revitalization and reinvestment.    
Enforce and improve regulations that hold banks and absentee landlords more accountable for property upkeep and maintenance.  

 Other suggestions related to creating stronger neighborhoods (already celebrated as one of Covington's most recognizable strengths) include: 

  • Working with the city, civic organizations, and funders to carry out residential painting programs
  • Eliminate or ameliorate the occurrence of trash by and under the 4th Street bridge
  • Improve the appearance of the flood wall and the riverfront from the Suspension Bridge to confluence of the Ohio & Licking Rivers
  • Improve the CSX railroad underpasses on Sixth Street and Seventh Street and adjacent open areas through a design process that identifies long-term solutions for the appearance and sense of safety in the area
  • Improve communication between City Hall and the neighborhoods and better transparency with how the City implements change and improvements
PUMA, during its multiple visits and public presentations in Covington, often noted that Covington's bargain real estate prices rank high among the city's strengths. In the CCCAP, the firm recommends capitalizing on that by marketing the affordability of property in the urban core: 

Housing that is designed and priced to meet the needs of those groups who are increasingly looking for urban housing options will allow for sustainable growth and stability in Center City neighborhoods.   
PUMA points to an area between the Westside and Old Seminary Square that has been dubbed, Jackson Square as an area to place priority for residential development. In the past several months the Center for Great Neighborhoods has showed off multiple renovated homes that had sat vacant and derelict for years. PUMA also suggests that the city continue its strong relationship with CGN to provide mortgage assistance and other types of financial support and education. 

PUMA also turns its attention to another prominent development on its way to Covington, River's Edge at Eastside Pointe, the new housing project that aims to create a mixed-income community where the government-subsidized Jacob Price homes once stood. PUMA urges the city to work with HOPE VI (the federal grant that is paying for the new housing development and that is being administered by the Housing Authority of Covington) to ensure that a balance of home ownership and rental units in the area. 

PUMA notes in the plan that public safety emerged as a significant issue during the firm's meeting with neighborhood groups. Recommendations include having the police department conduct an audit of public spaces and determine which ones encourage crime and suffer from poor lighting and design. PUMA suggests a new focus on alley ways as a way to achieve better pedestrian connectivity. 
In a safety issue related to the aforementioned code enforcement blitz, the City is urged to conduct an audit of troublesome properties. In specific cases mentioned by PUMA, the CSX railroad underpasses need to be improved for motorists to be safer from train debris and the traffic along 4th & 5th Streets must be calmed and must have better pedestrian access. 

Several social service agencies that support the homeless and low-income women and children are condensed in Covington's urban core. PUMA recommends that the City work with all of the agencies to consolidate their physical locations and/or programming to create efficiencies where appropriate. Additionally, the City should work with social service providers and transitional housing facilities to develop policies and promote a dialogue and information exchange between the providers and neighborhoods.   
On Wednesday, an exclusive report from The River City News explained the new organizational structure that PUMA recommends to manage many of the goals of this plan. It would reconstitute the Urban Partnership as an umbrella organization funded in part by the city and staffed by 3 - 4 people. See all the exclusive details, including what roles would be played by many city organizations, at the link. 
Plan for Downtown Covington Partially Revealed 

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