Innovation Alley to connect startup orgs in downtown Covington

The City of Covington will officially dedicate Innovation Alley at the Oct. 6 UpStart Celebration of Entrepreneurship.
Innovation Alley in downtown Covington.
“The Innovation District, Hub and Alley is the future of Covington,” says Casey Barach, director of the Kentucky Innovation Network’s Northern Kentucky office. “And the future is now. Covington is building a knowledge economy that we can celebrate.”
Innovation Alley connects Russell and Washington streets, between Sixth and Pike streets, in downtown Covington. The all-volunteer group behind the project is currently working on the beautification of the alley, but they have much bigger plans.
MKSK, a Covington-based landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm, has developed a three-phase strategy for redeveloping and activating the alley.
The current beautification work is part of the first phase, which will also include signage and murals that feature the themes of creativity and innovation. The second part of the project will restore some of the alley surfaces and improve lighting. The project will be completed with the installation of solar covered parking, flexible public spaces and awning installation.
“Young entrepreneurs want to be in cool spaces,” Barach says. “The density of the Innovation District is perfect for that; within a couple blocks there are entrepreneurs, accelerator programs and places to get beer and coffee. It’s the kind of place that attracts creative people who want to be around other creative people.”
Bad Girl Ventures recently opened a second location in the Innovation District, joining neighbors like Tier1 Performance Services, bioLOGIC and UpTECH. They are all supporting the alley improvements along with partners Keep Covington Beautiful, BLDG, Duke Energy Foundation, Graydon Head, Renaissance Covington, Republic Bank and U.S. Bank.
The alley dedication will be part of Covington’s annual innovation celebration, UpStart. The free ticketed event, running from 4:30 to 8 p.m., will feature music, food, beer and a showcase of the region's entrepreneurial community.
“It’s a non-structured event for people to get together, celebrate the innovation community, bump into entrepreneurs and just meet each other,” Barach says.
Representatives from the regional StartupCincy scene will be on hand, including Cintrifuse and the Hamilton County Business Development Center, as well as co-working spaces and the StartUp Weekend team. The Kentucky Innovation Network’s Northern Kentucky Office, which recently opened in the Innovation District, will also be open for attendees to check out.
UpStart will be Innovation Alley’s trial run as an event space.
“One of the fun things about activating the alley is that we can try some cool lighting effects,” Barach says. “For UpStart, we will light up the alley for the first time and see how it looks.”
The official renderings and plans for the alley will be displayed at UpStart as well.
The volunteer committee has raised about $12,000 for the project so far, and they are out every weekend pulling weeds and picking up trash.
“We’ve reached the critical mass to really launch this project,” Barach says. “We’ve got good momentum going forward, and I expect things will really take off this spring."
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Julie Carpenter has a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums, and nonprofit organizations. She's the Executive Director of AIA Cincinnati.