Renaissance Covington

Covington: A creative renaissance

Renaissance Covington in Covington, Kentucky, is one of the three winners of the 2017 Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) along with Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard Merchants and Business Association and West Chester Business Improvement District. Renaissance Covington was recognized for their achievement in transforming the downtown district through creative public space projects and strong business investment. The awards were made possible through support from PNC Bank.

(L) Covington Farmers Market pop-up dinner. (R) Faile Mural.

“Renaissance Covington has made a strong statement that with creativity, small cities can provide rich, joyful life for its people while keeping up with modern trends and needs,” said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center Inc.

Established in 2003, Renaissance Covington has played a key role in spearheading efforts that integrate small business with creative public space projects to encourage civic engagement and main street revival. Over the past decade, downtown Covington has also evolved from a historic neighborhood to become a hub of business innovation that attracts small businesses and startups. In 2016, 15 new business opened downtown and the area added 187 jobs. The relocation of an Ohio-based consulting company to Covington also created 250 new jobs and over the next ten years will infuse a $36.4-million investment in the area.

“The resurgence of downtown Covington has been a long time in the making—the achievements were made by a deeply bonded community,” said Katie Meyer, executive director of Renaissance Covington. “Together, the city government, funding partners, developers and nonprofit organizations have been working on the ground daily on their piece of the puzzle to help create a prosperous Covington.”

Creative placemaking
Made up of 19 neighborhoods and commercial districts, Covington is situated south of the Ohio River and Cincinnati. The area features a casual mix of Midwestern strength and Southern charm and has developed a flourishing creative population. Brimming with beautiful Italianate brick buildings, the district has seen an influx of new independent businesses and insatiable demand for downtown residential units over the past few years, with many stores’ upper floors being renovated into urban lofts.

Covington currently boasts 27 pieces of public art throughout downtown, most are in previously unused space, including a four-story mural painted by Brooklyn artist Faile that spans two buildings. To fuel art activities, the organization also redesigned a vacant parking lot into a designated space for public art and performance. Renaissance Covington also hosts an annual urban art festival, Art Off Pike, to showcase local and regional art.

“The community has truly embraced street art and creative placemaking as compliments to the design elements of the historic architecture,” Meyer said. “Our community embraces this creativity and as a result, we not only have a truly walkable downtown, we have seen an influx of development, businesses, and residents.”

(L) Roebling Point outdoor dining. (R) “Hops Scotch” Parklet unveiling at Braxton Brewing Co.

Urban guides and public art maps are just some ways Renaissance Covington is encouraging people to explore the downtown. In 2016, the organization partnered with local businesses and artists to install five impromptu “parklets” throughout downtown for six months. The parklets occupied several parking spots in front of stores and became space for public art and also walking destinations that connected different blocks. The organization also hosts an annual 10-mile Bike-Centennial Tour to showcase the town’s scenic treasures.

“Covington maintains the density of a truly walkable urban core offering a variety of independent restaurants and retailers. Our cultural assets and dining scenes make Covington a destination for visitors as well as a wonderful place to call home,” Meyer said.