COVINGTON, Ky. (FOX19) - You don’t have to be an urban planner schooled in the language of public design to know that the look and “feel” of downtown streets can have a huge impact on whether businesses locate there, whether talented workers take jobs there, and whether tourists and visitors spend money.
With that in mind, construction is scheduled to begin the week of Sept. 9 in Covington on a long-discussed, federally funded streetscape project that will improve the look and walkability of several blocks in a key downtown area.
The Covington City Commission recently approved a contract with Adleta Inc. for up to $1.37 million for the Sixth Street and Scott Boulevard Restoration Project.
The project will make an array of improvements to an “L-shaped” area that consists of Scott Boulevard from Fourth Street to Sixth Street and turns the corner to include the north side of Sixth between Scott and Madison Avenue.
Among the improvements: New sidewalks. Underground utilities. ADA ramps. Decorative lamp posts. Decorative brick pavement. Streetscape trees. Trash cans.
"This has been in the discussion phase for as long as I've been with the City," Public Works Director Rick Davis said. "It feels good to stop talking about this stuff and actually get it done."
The work will complement similar projects that changed the streetscape on Scott Street to the north and on Madison north of Eighth Street, Davis said.
The project emanated from the 2012 Covington Center City Action Plan, that called for improving the "walkability" of downtown, better connecting business districts in Covington, and making the public realm more "inviting."
At least one previous attempt to hire contractors and get the project started came in more than a million dollars over budget. The City has scaled back the project and put off to a future phase the initial plans to extend the improvements on Sixth Street west to MainStrasse Village.
Economic Development Director Tom West, whose fundamental mission is to attract businesses to Covington and help create jobs here, said streetscapes are critical to the success of his department’s work.
"Look at it this way: When people seeking to buy a new home visit an area, their decision is influenced to a great degree by so-called 'curb appeal' and how the neighborhood 'feels' - i.e. whether the sidewalks and curbs are maintained, whether the area 'feels' safe, whether nearby homes show pride in their appearance, and whether the street seems like a good place to walk," West said. "Business executives and workers are influenced by the same factors when they evaluate downtowns, so Covington needs to do all it can to make its downtown streets and sidewalks inviting and walkable."
Thus, improvements to the area around Scott and Sixth, West said, "represent an investment by the City to complement and encourage private investment and to improve the safety and functionality of that corridor while also improving the aesthetics of the district."
"We find that investments like these have tangible dividends," he added.
The construction and material will be funded by federal transportation grants earmarked specifically for such improvements, Davis said. The latest design work for the project was completed by GRW - an engineering, architectural, and geospatial consulting firm - earlier this year.
Work should be finished by summer 2020. The City will meet with individual businesses affected by underground utility work, and any impact on traffic will be minor and short, Davis said.