'Now we own it.' Major IRS site plan moves forward

A key step in the eventual renaissance of Covington’s IRS site took place recently as the city officially took control of the property that has been called “the most intriguing development opportunity between Baltimore and New Orleans.”


What’s so intriguing is that it’s large – 23 acres – central to the urban core, and connected to the Ohio River.


Taking possession of the IRS site officially closes the book on the first stage of what is expected to be a major reinvention of the city's core.

READ MORE: Covington's rare opportunity to reconnect to the river


Once Covington’s largest employer, the Internal Revenue Service operated a massive tax-processing facility there for 52 years before the agency closed it in September 2019. Covington officials began negotiations to buy the site in December, reached an agreement with the federal government in March, authorized debt to finance the purchase in May, and closed on the property on July 31 with the transfer of $18,480,050 – the remaining purchase balance - to the federal government.


The next stage is demolishing the facility and preparing the site for private development.


"We worked hard to get to this point, and now we own it," says City Manager David Johnston. "A whole different type of work begins now, and believe me, we're not going to be lax about it. We bought it not to hold on to it but to get it back on the tax rolls and contributing to both Covington and our taxpayers. We will work diligently to clear it and make it attractive for the private sector to come in and activate it. Stay tuned."


After the demolition, Covington officials say they will restore the street grid, extend utilities to the site, and build fiber and WiFi infrastructure.


In late 2018, Covington hired Atlanta-based architecture and design firm Cooper Carry to help it secure ownership and to create a vision for how it could be developed.


The vision, which Johnston says will serve as a guide for development and can be seen HERE - includes a restored street grid, a levee park, a community plaza for festivals, and a mix of offices, retail shops, and housing.


Covington officials say they will be guided by the goals of creating jobs and tax revenue from a variety of workplaces; creating a mix of uses and outdoor spaces; building a walkable and drivable street grid; improiving connections to the Ohio River; integration with surrounding neighborhoods and business centers; and staying flexible to respond to market demand and new proposals.




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Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.