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Leaps and bounds toward livable communities in NKY


Three organizations are seeing progress in their charge to transform Northern Kentucky's urban landscape.
 
The Catalytic Development Funding Corporation of Northern Kentucky, Southbank Partners, and the bioLOGIC Corporation are reshaping the region as a destination spot for companies and residents.
 
The Catalytic Development Funding Corporation is on a mission to attract projects to Northern Kentucky that stimulate re-population in the urban community or job creation. The Fund, established in 2010, is nearing its projected goal of $10 million to provide gap financing for urban revitalization development, says Jeanne Schroer, executive director of the Catalytic Fund.
 
"The fund is nearing its completion," Schroer says. "We're now at the point where we're actively underwriting and seeking projects for investment. We are hoping to make a major announcement very shortly."
 
Progress has been swift, Schroer says, and she foresees no problems with the fund reaching its goal.
 
"We're working on many investment commitments which will take the fund over $10 million," Schroer says. "It will be a lot easier for more investors to then come into the fund. It's always hard as a start-up, but once you get a start, it's a lot easier for (investors) to join."
 
The fund will assist real estate projects that could spur the development of livable communities in Northern Kentucky.
 
"What we're hoping to do is help the acceleration of revitalization efforts in the urban community, help areas that have outstanding potential as quality urban places to live and work, and to help developers provide projects that have a major economic development impact and make the region more attractive for companies to locate in the area," Schroer says.
 
One draw for new companies is Covington's Life Science Corridor project, spearheaded by bioLOGIC Corporation
 
bioLOGIC was one of the first recipients of a new economic development grant funded by the Duke Energy Foundation. The award seeks to jump-start job creation and retention in urban communities.
 
The $100,000 grant from Duke is helping bioLOGIC create a Life Science Accelerator program, which includes a 7,500 square foot expansion of its current office space at 128 E. Second St., in order to attract other life science companies to Covington.
 
"The impact is immeasurable," says Keith Schneider, managing director of bioLOGIC, of the grant. "One thing that is consistently absent in the start-up world is the people and money to fill all the roles necessary to be successful by having a strong team in place."
 
The Duke Energy grant has given bioLOGIC the opportunity to establish that team, Schneider says, and to work on bringing more resources and people into the Life Science Corridor efforts.
 
So far, it's working. In addition to the 12 companies bioLOGIC currently has on-site, approximately 20 have expressed interest in the office and lab space the company is building.
 
"Of the nearly 20 companies, I would say more than half were not in our pipeline until after the Duke Energy Foundation contribution," Schneider says "Thanks to the funding and the continued efforts of our team, Covington will be even more attractive to these innovative people and companies."
 
The office expansion isn't the only way bioLOGIC is luring life sciences to Covington.
 
"We have several programs in the works to beef up the deal, along with programs to truly accelerate the development of life science companies in specific areas of expertise," Schneider says.
 
One of those programs is the establishment of a consultant network, which will specialize in assisting biotech start-ups.
 
"Our goal is to identify consultants and mentors dedicated to supporting the community and therefore willing to donate some time up-front to give these start-ups a runway from which to launch," Schneider says.
 
The overall goal is to make Covington a destination for businesses in the life sciences sector.
 
"The grand vision is to complete the build-out of our upper floors in support of the public-private partnership with (Covington) that the Duke Energy Foundation funded, then move down the street and duplicate the effort in another building," Schneider says. "Then do it again, and again, until the city is filled with innovative companies from Russell Street to Scott Street."
 
Yet another community-building initiative — the Riverfront Commons trail project — is moving forward, says Jack Moreland, president of Southbank Partners, which is backing the project.
 
"It's going very well," Moreland says. "We've accomplished two major events (this year) and we have several projects going on as well."
 
In January, the United States Army Corps of Engineers' Riverfront Commons value management study was completed, and the project's feasibility study began.
 
"The feasibility study allows groups involved in the project (such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife) to address issues on the study's first run," Moreland says.
 
Another coup for the project is the Interlocal Cooperation Agreement reached between the six cities that make up Southbank Partners — Covington, Newport, Bellevue, Fort Thomas, Dayton and Ludlow.  The agreement will help Southbank Partners receive funding and investments from private organizations, foundations and even the Kentucky Department of Transportation.
 
"It gives us bigger critical mass to talk to funding organizations," Moreland says.
 
One project Southbank is involved with is a $1.8 million culvert extension project near the border of Newport and Bellevue.
 
The project, which is funded with a grant from the Kentucky Department of Transportation, will backfill a culvert located along the shoreline of the Ohio River with dirt and convert the area into a park and green space. 
 
"It's one of the first tangible pieces of the Riverfront Commons project," Moreland says.
 
Other projects by Southbank Partners cities are a bike and walking trail in Dayton, a $500,000 project to repair riverbank slippage in Bellevue, and a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant for Newport.
 
"We've been very successful with our cities," Moreland says.
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