City of Covington moves closer to ending ‘migratory existence,’ picks design team for new city hall

Covington New City Hall

The City of Covington moved one step closer to ending City Hall’s 50-year “migratory existence” and building a permanent facility that better serves its residents and businesses.

By Green Umbrella,

Published January 27, 2023

Covington New City Hall
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Source: NKY Tribune

City of Covington moves closer to ending ‘migratory existence,’ picks design team for new city hall

The City of Covington moved one step closer to ending City Hall’s 50-year “migratory existence” and building a permanent facility that better serves its residents and businesses.

On Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners authorized City staff to enter into negotiations with Brandstetter Carroll, Inc. and Elevar Design Group to develop a contract to design a new City building at 620-622 Scott Blvd.

Andrew Wilhoite, the City’s Director of Special Projects, pointed out that the two local firms have more than 50 years of experience in the region and have worked together for the last 10 years, during which they’ve designed nearly 200 public buildings.

The future home of Covington City Hall in the 600 block of Scott Boulevard. (Photo from City of Covington)

“They have extensive experience with civic legacy buildings, including 40 City Halls, over 100 Fire, EMS and Police stations, and 47 courthouses,” Wilhoite said. “It’s not hard to see their thumbprint in the region. They’ve designed the Kenton County Administration Building, the Campbell County Administration Building, Newport City Hall, the Kenton County Jail, and the Delhi Township Town Center.”

Those projects alone total more than $100 million in civic construction, he said.

Noting that the team had provided Covington with a detailed schedule of the project, Wilhoite said “their selection is a statement that the time for talking about a new City Hall is over, it’s time to start doing.”

Once a contract is entered, the City will begin an inclusive design phase which should last through the year. The City hopes to begin construction in early 2024 with a move-in date anticipated in early 2025.”

Over 50 years, Covington’s City Hall has existed in five temporary locations, in essence living a “migratory existence,” Wilhoite said. Ten years ago, the City moved from 638 Madison Ave. to its current location at 20 W. Pike St. to facilitate the development of Hotel Covington in the former Coppin’s Department Store on Madison. As a sign of its temporary intentions, the City signed a five-year lease that it later had to renew.

Despite a retrofit, the building ­– a former J.C. Penney department store – remains inadequate for government functions. It lacks office space, meeting rooms for large groups, technology, a lobby area, and even a lunchroom. Desks are jammed into hallways, closets, and common areas. People who work closely together are physically separated. And citizens who come to pay bills or apply for permits must conduct their business out in the open. Furthermore, the Commission chambers is poorly lit and has terrible acoustics.

“Something so simple as hiring an intern requires a cascading series of decisions to make room,” City Manager Ken Smith said.

It was Mayor Joe Meyer who several years ago put the vision and process for a new City Hall in motion, saying it was time to take “the long view,” planning not for the next decade, but the next century.
In 2019, the City began a lengthy citizen engagement process called “BeSpoke,” which identified the principles that would guide it in developing a new City Hall.

A volunteer board engaged with citizens and others to come up with guiding principles that included:

  • Fostering multiple connected venues for broad civic exchange.
  • Locating the new City Hall at a hub of Covington public life.
  • Providing many reasons to come to City Hall.
  • Building Covington’s Public Square.
  • Being a Center of Design and Culture.

In 2020, the City purchased property on Scott and added to it in late 2022 when the Kenton County Fiscal Court transferred title of a nearby parcel.

Last September, the City issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for an architect. Wilhoite said 13 firms – local, regional, national, and international – submitted applications.

A committee of City staff, residents, and business owners spent three months carefully vetting the applicants, reviewing each firm’s history with legacy building, work samples, qualifications, lead staff, references, and schedule.

“The citizen members of the Architect Selection Committee truly went above and beyond in lending their time and talent to the City,” Wilhoite said. “Their unique backgrounds, experiences, and voices reflect the city itself and made for a better process and result than we could have ever expected otherwise.”

Ben Brandstetter, President of Brandstetter Carroll, Inc., said both his firm and Elevar Design Group are excited about the opportunity to work with the City to enhance the community and quality of life for Covington residents.

“This project will provide the venue by which City employees can continue to provide excellent customer service to its citizens while also using it as a tool to grow the City economically,” said Brandstetter.

City of Covington

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