COVINGTON, Ky. - Two landmark buildings on one of Covington's most visible corners are changing hands to enable a significant but as yet unannounced development that will create jobs and excitement in the urban core, Covington officials announced.
The City of Covington is buying the former YMCA and Gateway Bookstore properties at the corner of Madison Avenue and Pike Street for almost $1.7 million - officially $1,690,203.48 - from the Kentucky Community & Technical College System with the intention of reselling the property to a developer who plans to renovate the site.
The Covington City Commission voted 5-0 tonight to authorize Mayor Joe Meyer to sign the purchase agreement with KCTCS, the system that includes Gateway Community & Technical College.
"This area of Covington has been undergoing a remarkable transformation as the city continues its economic rebirth, and these buildings on this corner present a significant opportunity for us to accelerate our momentum," Meyer said. "We've been working with private sector developers, state officials, Gateway, and others for over a year on this and appreciate the many people who have helped make it happen."
The two adjacent three-story buildings together encompass over 64,000 square feet of space:
- 614 Madison Ave., which recently housed Gateway’s bookstore and administrative offices on the intersection’s southeast corner.
- 19 E. Pike St., the former historic home of the YMCA, a much larger building that wraps around the bookstore on two sides with large frontage on both Pike Street and Madison Avenue. It’s been vacant since 2015.
The purchase agreement includes the stipulation that Gateway will be the primary partner for any training that may be needed by companies attracted to the new development. The City expects to announce details of the pending project with the developer before the end of the year.
Gateway acquired the smaller building in 2012 and the larger one in 2014 as part of plans for a larger Urban Metro Campus. But Gateway's president, Dr. Fernando Figueroa, said it was clear from the community college's careful studies of the site over the last few years "that the best and highest use of the YMCA building did not involve Gateway as the owner."
"We are thrilled to move forward with the City of Covington to realize the possibilities that exist right here, today," Figueroa said.
The college said that with the bookstore's closing, students are able to buy and pick up bookstore items from kiosks located on each of its campuses.
Before Gateway purchased it, the building at 614 Madison Ave. over the years had housed a bank, a travel agency, and the Literacy in Northern Kentucky (LINK) program.
The building at 19 East Pike St. has a more storied history.
In 1911, the Magnolia Hotel on the site was torn down to make way for construction of a new home for the Covington YMCA, according to an article written by the Kenton County Public Library's director, David Schroeder.
In 1913, the YMCA opened to great fanfare, with a formal lobby with marble floors, offices, a large reading room, a billiards room, a kitchen and dining hall, as well as a large gymnasium and elevated running track. The basement contained a swimming pool, locker rooms, and shower room. The third floor housed 39 private dormitory rooms.
For many decades, the building was a hub for activity in Covington, but as population and services moved to the suburbs, the YMCA closed what it had called its Wade Branch in 1987.
The building was later occupied by workers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky's Family Service office, providing support services such as medical assistance and food stamps. Those workers moved to Latonia after Gateway bought the building in 2014.
The site is in the same block of Madison Avenue as Hotel Covington.
Covington Economic Development Director Tom West said the City's involvement was critical to this real estate transaction, and negotiations involved many parties on the state and local levels.
"I'm overwhelmed by the collaborative effort and the assistance that Covington received - it was truly a team effort," West said. "There are many people who recognize the special momentum we're enjoying in Covington and wanted to be a part of that rebirth through a project that will be a big positive for the City, downtown, the city's residents, and Gateway."
West said the City's agreement with KCTCS and Gateway was facilitated by a number of officials, including:
- State Senate President Robert Stivers, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, and state Rep. Buddy Wheatley.
- Sec. Vivek Sarin, former Sec. Terry Gill, and general counsel Jessica Burke of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.
- Sec. William M. Landrum III of the Kentucky Finance & Administration Cabinet.
- Members of the Governor's staff.
- Karen Finan, president of the Northern Kentucky Regional Alliance.
- President Dr. Jay Box and Vice President Wendell Followell of the Kentucky Community & Technical College System.
- Kenton County Judge-Executive Kris Knochelmann.
- And members of the Covington Economic Development Authority.