Tuesday, March 27, 2001

City picks grant candidate

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — City commissioners Monday unanimously selected the 145-year-old Odd Fellows Hall building at Fifth and Madison as the project for a $1 million Kentucky Renaissance grant application.

        In a special meeting, commissioners chose to back the Odd Fellows proposal over a similar project from another developer for the building at 424-426 Scott St., known as the Ice House.

        “I hope we can accomplish both of these projects,” Commissioner Jerry Bamberger said. “I'm supporting the Odd Fellows project for this grant application, but I want the city to work with the other developer to locate funding for that project.”

        Mayor Butch Callery said he could not remember a situation when the city had two such excellent renovation projects vying for a grant.

        “I pledge to help the Ice House developer in finding the funding needed to finish the project,” Mr. Callery said. “We have two fine projects here. A vote for one tonight is not a vote against the other.”

        Covington developers Tony Milburn and Damien and Kelly Sells have an agreement to purchase the historic three-story Odd Fellows building. They plan to convert the pre-Civil War structure to office space on the upper floors and a restaurant and possibly some shops on the street level.

        “Technically, we won't own the building until May 1 after we close on the purchase,” Mr. Milburn said Monday night. “But we've already had contractors looking at it and have had various inspections performed. We want to be able to hit the ground running on this project.”

        The city is applying for a $1 million grant through the Kentucky Renaissance Commission, which has $6 million available for this round of grants. There is no guarantee that Covington will get a grant, or if it will receive the entire $1 million if it is selected as a Renaissance recipient.

        It isn't known yet how many Kentucky cities are applying; more than 30 are eligible. Neighboring Newport is also seeking a Renaissance grant for more money for the Monmouth Street renovation.

        “It will be interesting to see how many applications there are and from what cities and for what projects,” Mr. Milburn said.

        Allen Haehnle, who owns the Ice House building, said he hopes the city commissioners mean what they say. “We'll see if they can help us,” he said. “Right now I can't move any further. I'm about a million dollars short. For the time being, I'm opening the building for storage.”

        Mr. Haehnle said he already had tenants interested in leasing office space in the building, and said it would mean about 100 news jobs in downtown Covington.

        The city must file its grant application to the Kentucky Renaissance Commission by April 1.


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