Saturday, October 09, 1999

Store seen as symbol of renewal

IGA, Blockbuster represent $2.6M investment

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Within six months, a boarded-up former Thriftway store in the 1600 block of Madison Avenue will be transformed into an IGA Service Plus grocery, a move described by city and community leaders as a symbolic rebirth of a blighted block.

        The new, full-service grocery — complete with a pharmacy and possible branch bank — as well as a Blockbuster Video to be built on that corner by year's end, will represent a $2.6 million investment, said Ella Brown-Frye, Covington economic development director.

        Together, the two busi nesses will generate 115 full- and part-time jobs, replacing positions lost when the Thriftway closed in December 1997, Ms. Frye said.

        “We believe that with the two new anchors there in that particular neighborhood, it'll assist in revitalizing that entire area,” Ms. Frye said. “It needed a face lift.”

        On Friday, crews began tearing down the decaying building at 16th Street and Madison Avenue that once housed a coin shop and pet store. By year's end, the site will be home to Covington's first Blockbuster Video.

        Ms. Frye said the city also hopes to eventually add other service-oriented businesses, such as dry cleaners, insurance companies and banks, in that block.

        About two blocks away, owners of the Family Dollar Store hope to finish restoring the vacant Scanlon Drugs building by year's end, for an additional investment of about $400,000, Ms. Frye said.

        “I can't wait till it opens,” Dennis Fangman, president of the Austinburg Neighborhood Association, said of the planned IGA. “It'll be nice to have another store to go to other than Kroger's.”

        In February, Mr. Fangman joined more than a dozen residents in stopping a developer from converting the boarded-up Thriftway into a bingo hall.

        Rollins Davis, executive di rector of the Northern Kentucky Community Center, and a resident of Covington's east side, said the new developments are long overdue.

        “Poverty and dilapidated buildings are depressing,” Mr. Davis said. “To see something new, well kept, clean and inviting, stimulates economic development.”

        On a personal note, Mr. Davis said he will enjoy having a video store nearby.

        “Now I have to go all over town to get a movie,” Mr. Davis said. “The closest Blockbuster is in Newport.”

        The Rev. Charles Gaines, president of the East Side Community Development Association, said he'll be happy to see competition for the nearby Kroger store at 1515 Madison Ave.

        The Kroger and a Sav-A-Lot Store at 1717 Madison Ave. are the only grocery stores on Madison Avenue south of 15th Street.

        Because of that, the Rev. Mr. Gaines said, east side senior citizens often have to take a taxi or pay someone in the neighborhood to take them to the grocery.

        To help developer Joe Schreiber afford the property's $890,000 purchase price, Covington officials se cured a $750,000 HUD 108 loan from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Schreiber will repay the loan at 3 percent interest over 15 years.

        As part of his agreement with the city, Mr. Schreiber, who has full-service groceries in Newport, Crescent Springs and Florence, “will make an extra effort to hire people from the neighborhood for the IGA,” Ms. Frye said.

        Mr. Davis said the new jobs, paying an average of $9 an hour, should employ many of those left jobless when the Thriftway closed.

        “There were people who worked at the Thriftway for years,” Mr. Davis said. “I would think that misplaced work force would be able to jump right back in when the new IGA Service Plus opens.”


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