New tech-focused owners of Latonia Plaza are thinking outside the big box

In the wake of the abandonment of older industrial cities, neighborhoods are increasingly burdened with vacant and abandoned properties. These properties can have blighting influences on their neighborhoods, and many cities are now more systematically addressing these properties, which present challenges and also offer promise.

Finding a productive reuse of commercial, vacant properties is a complex process, because new uses are tied to the larger  macro-economic forces affecting entire neighborhoods and the cities they are in. This has never been more present than with the long controversy of how Latonia’s aging shopping plaza should be handled.

The city of Covington announced that ReGadget and Blair Technology Group, two local computer firms, have joined to create CovTech Investments, a new firm that plans to create a $7 million modern work space centered on jobs in the abandoned Value City/Burlington Coat Factory and Value City Furniture buildings located in the Latonia Plaza in Covington’s neighborhood of Latonia.

"The redevelopment of Latonia Plaza has long been needed," says Covington Commissioner Shannon Smith. "I am thrilled to have tech-forward companies at the helm."

“Over the years we have encouraged the site’s property owner to sell to a developer that would cause positive change,” says Tom West, economic development director for Covington. “When we at the city of Covington were approached by ReGadget with interest in purchasing the former Value City/Burlington portion of the Latonia Plaza, we were excited and let them know that we would support the purchase in any way we could. Through Covington’s Business Incentives Program, we were able to provide payroll incentives in addition to funds for facade improvements.”

READ MORE: The historic neighborhood of Latonia reimagines itself as a 21st century walkable community

The redevelopment of the decades-old Latonia Plaza should ease its residents' calls for mixed-use revitalization in that neighborhood.

“I hope,” West says, “that this is a great opportunity to show that Covington is more than what’s north of 12th Street.”

Some, however, were hoping for more retail from the redevelopment.

"I was really hoping the area would be redeveloped as an improved retail destination and not as a business park type development," says Maggie Soard, a long-time Latonia resident. "With Latonia being a super-walkable residential neighborhood, we could have really have benefited from some more shopping and eating options that, I think, would have really added to Latonia as a great neighborhood to buy a home."

The project has been touted as a catalyst to spur further development in and around the site.

“The Plaza project is,” Smith says, “the catalyst for a renaissance akin to what occured in the central business district. With space for additional businesses, plenty of room to grow, and close access to the interstate, this project will attract other businesses, investors, and unique opportunities. All around this is a huge win for Latonia and the city of Covington from the new jobs to the additional tax revenue to the general excitement a redevelopment like this brings. With support from the city, Latonia Community Council, Latonia Uptown, and the Latonia Business Association I am confident we will see new life breathed into the area and I absolutely cannot wait and contribute however I can.”

Read more articles by Kareem A. Simpson.

Raised in the inner city of Covington, Kentucky, Kareem Simpson is an author, innovator, community enthusiast, military veteran, serial entrepreneur, foodie and lover of all things creative.