Sunday, June 02, 2002

Covington's Fifth St. to reopen after fire

Area shops say they're suffering

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Fifth Street, near the burned-out Odd Fellows Hall, will reopen to traffic early Monday morning.

        At 7:30 a.m. Monday, Covington Mayor Butch Callery will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the reopening of Fifth Street. City officials said the ceremony is intended to symbolize that it's business as usual for nearby restaurants and retail and commercial establishments.

        No decision has been made about when a section of Madison Avenue will re-open.

        Since a May 21 fire destroyed all but three walls of the Civil War-era landmark, officials have barricaded Fifth Street and Madison Avenue for safety reasons. Before the fire, the owners of the Odd Fellows Hall had planned to convert the 146-year-old building into retail and office space.

        “We understand it's been tough for businesses affected by the fire, and the city is doing everything possible to get things back to normal,” Mr. Callery said.

        Since the fire, Fifth Street has been closed to traffic from Russell Street to Scott Boulevard, and Madison has been closed to motorists from Fourth to Sixth streets.

        This week, the Covington Business Council and city workers erected banners over the barricaded streets advising passers-by that area businesses are still open.

        One business owner, Earl Privett, a barber on Madison Avenue for almost 40 years, is closing his Madison Avenue Barber Shop because he is retiring.

        On Tuesday, a delegation of Covington business owners will go before Covington City Commission to ask that convenient access to their shops be restored as soon as possible. Some businesses closed or temporarily relocated after the fire, and other owners say business is still down.

        Covington officials and the owners of the Odd Fellows Hall met Wednesday with business owners affected by the fire and attempted to reassure them that they are doing all they can to help downtown shops get back to business as usual.

        Greg Shumate, a lawyer representing the owners of the Odd Fellows Hall, said some business owners mistakenly thought the streets would have reopened sooner if the Odd Fellows Hall been demolished. He said demolition would have kept streets and some businesses closed until at least this Monday, and possibly longer.

        Officials have deemed the fire accidental.

        Although Odd Fellows owners Tony Milburn and Damian and Kelly Sells don't plan to duplicate the building's original interior, they hope to preserve and display as many artifacts as possible, Mr. Milburn said.


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