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Old Posted May 8, 2005, 2:23 PM
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From the 5/7/05 Kentucky Post:

Condo project might work its magic in city
By Jeanne Houck
Post staff reporter

World-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind wrote in a 2004 memoir that "There's a magic to a great building."

Covington leaders hope that's true of the 21-floor condominium tower he's designed for the city's riverfront.

Government officials and business people would like nothing more than to see surrounding residential and commercial development take wing with the asymmetrical "swooshing" roof that is to top the estimated $40 million high-rise that Corporex Cos. of Covington wants to build just west of the Roebling Suspension Bridge.

Steven Massicot, Corporex's project manager, thinks it's a given.

"This will definitely be a catalyst for downtown Covington and the entire region," he said. "We've learned from other downtowns such as Nashville that if you bring residents downtown, retail will follow."

The Covington City Commission last month approved plans for "The Ascent at Roebling's Bridge," Corporex's crescent-shaped building, which is to hold 80 luxury condominiums, a small retail center and a plaza and parking for tower residents.

Mayor Butch Callery said developers have not been burning up the phone lines trying to finagle room for their projects in the area surrounding the condominium high-rise, which is to be built at the southeast corner of RiverCenter and Scott boulevards, the former site of the Coach and Four restaurant.

Nor has the city launched an aggressive campaign to market that area, although the city has a myriad of incentive programs in place and more in the works, Callery said.

"Not until we break ground," said the mayor, noting that Corporex plans to kick off a two-year construction phase late this summer.

But The Ascent at Roebling's Bridge already has made a splash outside Covington.

The city, the condominium tower and Libeskind were the subject of a front-page article, "Location, Location, Architect," in the April 20 edition of the Wall Street Journal's marketplace section.

"That's pretty big to make the front page of the Wall Street Journal because that goes nationally - worldwide," Callery crowed. "So it's a pretty big deal."

Is it possible that the high-rise can, in the words of Libeskind, work its magic and:

Resolve the Kenton County Jail issue? Could the condominium tower drive surrounding property values so high that the county could make a tidy profit on the sale of its jail at Court Street and Park Place - a stone's throw from the tower? That would allow the fiscally strapped county to build a larger lockup elsewhere and free up prime property for which Covington believes it can find a far better use.

But Kenton County Commissioner Dam Humpert doesn't see the Corporex tower as a possible solution to a complicated problem.

"I'm not saying (the jail site) won't go up in value, but it would have to be an awfully large increase in the value of the property and it would be one-time funding," he said.

"One-time funds are great, but you can't build a jail with one-time funds and you can't fund operations with one-time funds."

It will take the state increasing its funding for jails to ultimately solve Kenton County's jail woes, he said.

Help find a buyer for what remains of Covington Landing? The floating restaurant and entertainment center at the foot of Madison Avenue, less than a block from the site of condominium tower, has been a financial drain on the city since 1997, when Covington acquired the complex after the former owner went bankrupt.

Covington has hired Julie Boudousquie, a broker with FORSITE Commercial Real Estate Group of Cincinnati and Burlington, in hopes of finding a new owner to renovate and fully lease Covington Landing.

"Obviously, any more bodies down in that area is helpful," Boudousquie said. "The fact that condominiums will be there, that is a source of customers for Covington Landing."

Re-energize the ongoing development of a riverfront restaurant district with a town square?

"(The tower is) going to cater to people with large disposable incomes, and they'll need places to eat," Callery said.

Restaurateur Todd Barton, a partner in Barton's on Park Place, said there hasn't been a lot of discussion in the neighborhood about how the condominium tower might spur growth in the restaurant district - envisioned for the area roughly bordered by Greenup Street, Scott Boulevard, Third Street and Fourth Street. But the project has been greeted with enthusiasm.

Barton, for one, is grateful to Corporex President Bill Butler.

"I think Bill Butler has done an excellent job on the riverfront here in Covington," Barton said. "He's really transformed the whole area."

A limited liability company called Covington Square has positioned itself to reap the benefits of any renaissance surrounding The Ascent at Roebling's Bridge, although the company began snapping up property in the area two years ago, before plans for the tower were announced.

Since July 2003, Covington Square has purchased nine pieces of residential, commercial and industrial property on Greenup Street, East Fourth Street, Sandford Street and Tobacco Alley. Their total worth: $4,855,000.

Last December, Covington Square sold two industrial parcels on East Fourth Street to an Aspen, Colo., couple for a total of $1,389,000.

Covington Square spokesman Marc Wilson said the company had no comment on its plans for the property or how the condominium tower might affect those plans.

Meanwhile, Corporex's Massicot said The Ascent at Roebling's Bridge has been a dream project from the beginning, starting with the architect Libeskind, who also has been chosen to design new buildings for the World Trade Center site in New York City.

"Daniel Libeskind is inspiring to work with," Massicot said.

And while The Ascent at Roebling's Bridge will be nothing like any other building in Covington, it will be a seamless fit, he promised.

The huge windows that will make up half of the exterior will reflect the surrounding landscape and sky, the remainder of the exterior will be earth tones and the shape of the building will echo the lines of the Roebling Suspension Bridge.

"This is a building that will beautifully - and literally - reflect its surroundings," Massicot said.
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