Bourbon trailhead planned as part of $22.5 million Covington redevelopment

A $22.5 million development project planned for Covington will include a bourbon distillery experience designed to be the northern trailhead of the Kentucky bourbon industry.

The project is expected to revitalize one of the most visible corners in Covington — the former YMCA building.

The historic 72,000-square-foot building, which has been vacant since 2015, will be transformed into a mixed-use property, including a bourbon distillery experience, 10,000 square feet of office space, and suites and hotel rooms to be operated by the adjacent Hotel Covington.

The project includes the old YMCA at 19 E. Pike Street, and Gateway Bookstore at 614 Madison Ave.

The City of Covington purchased the buildings from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System for $1.69 million in late October and sold the site to Salyers Group and vR Group, the developers behind Hotel Covington.

“For too long this corner has been all but vacant, but soon it will be attracting tourism, over 100 jobs, and a restored storefront to the YMCA building,” says Covington Mayor Joe Meyer.

The upper floors of the YMCA will be converted into 60 VIP suites ranging from 400 to 1,500 square feet. The expansion will offer modern accommodations and private terraces with views of Covington, the developers say.

The street-level commercial space will feature an authentic urban distillery and bourbon experience, in addition to 10,000 square feet of commercial office space designed to attract companies seeking contemporary offices in downtown Covington.

Covington officials say the project will produce a return on investment for the city through new payroll taxes and increased property values. It will be one of the first projects to take advantage of Covington's federally designated Opportunity Zone.

Covington Economic Development Director Tom West says the project is significant because it will bring jobs to the urban core and add contemporary office space in Covington; build on the Hotel Covington experience; and tap into Kentucky's $8.6 billion signature bourbon industry.

"We're really focused both on creating jobs and on nurturing developments that help us attract employers who then create jobs," West says. "We will do both with this multi-layered project.”

West says the project will also expand Covington's walkability and add another dimension to a several-block area that includes the hotel, Braxton Brewing Company, Duveneck Square apartments, and restaurants, night spots, and retail.

“Our family has a long history of investing in downtown Covington, and over the years, our investment in building and operating a hotel, reception halls, and retail businesses have helped bring hundreds of thousands of people to the city,” says Guy van Rooyen, president of the Salyers Group. “We see this development as the next catalytic project to further the current momentum in Covington.”

Ground breaking on the joint development project is scheduled for January 2020.

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