Thursday, October 19, 2000

Covington wins honor for historic preservation

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The city of Covington has won the “Oscar” of historic preservation awards for its efforts in acquiring vacant or run-down historic buildings and turning them into affordable housing.

        On Wednesday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that Covington has won this year's National Trust/HUD secretary's Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation.

        Of the 159 nominees for this year's national preservation awards, Covington is one of only 21 recipients, said Susanna French, spokeswoman for the historic-preservation group. Like the Motion Picture Academy's Oscar awards, the national preservation winners will be recognized in Los Angeles.

        Among Covington's fellow honorees: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley for overseeing a revival of the nation's third-largest city, and those who transformed New York City's Radio City Music Hall into a dazzling art deco masterpiece.

        “It's an extremely prestigious award,” said Covington City Manager Greg Jarvis. “We're just kind of basking in the recognition.”

        Criteria for the award include the project's impact on the community, its degree of difficulty, its local contribution and an unusual or pioneering effort, Ms. French said.

        “As a group, the preservation awards really are the Academy Awards of preservation,” said Ms. French. “There are so many competitors, and so many great projects to choose from. Covington really stood out in this category. They created a model for other cities to use.”

        While the award honors Covington's Urban Reclamation Program, Mr. Jarvis and Howard Hodge, Covington's housing development director, said it represents the cumulative effect of various restoration programs the city has had for many years.

        “There have literally been hundreds of people who've worked very hard in neighborhoods to rehab properties,” Mr. Hodge said. “It's really an award for the entire city and all of the people who've worked so hard for so many years to rehab these vacant and dilapidated buildings and turn them into showcases.”

        Since the early 1980s, Covington has restored 134 historic buildings, reselling many of them to low- and moderate-income homeowners, Mr. Hodge said. Today, those once-blighted properties are worth about $10 million.

        Covington also has triggered another $6 million in improvements by acquiring abandoned properties through purchase, foreclosure or eminent domain, using federal Community Development Block Grant funds, Mr. Hodge said. Interested buyers or developers could purchase them for as little as $1, after agreeing to restore them. Through the program, homeowners also have bought vacant lots for infill housing, or more yard or driveway space.

        “When I've spoken to people throughout the country at national conferences, particularly the preservation organizations and HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development), one of the things they identify Covington by is its historic homes and buildings,” Mr. Jarvis said. “It's one of the things that makes the city unique and a very special place.”


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