14. The KENTON COUNTY GOVERNMENT CENTER
- On The Former Bavarin Brewery Site (2016 - Present)
Officials in Kenton County and Covington, Kentucky, wrestled with ways to improve their municipal buildings and provide better services, especially after 2010. It was not readily apparent that the former Bavarian Brewery property would offer a solution to these challenges for the county, until sometime in 2015 or early 2016. However, after the prospects of legalizing casinos in Kentucky failed in 2008, and as events unfolded over the next several years - along with various studies commissioned to evaluate alternatives - this site provided a unique opportunity for Kenton County to develop one complex that consolidated five different departments. These included the Fiscal Court, the County and Commonwealth’s Attorneys offices, the Sheriff Department, the PVE (Property Value Administrator), the County and Circuit Clerks Offices, and the PDS (Planning and Development Services of Kenton County). The combination of these entities would allow for greater efficiencies and also make it more convenient for residents and businesses working in Kenton County. It was an enormous and challenging undertaking which took over a decade. Even though the acquisition of the Bavarian site did not occur until 2016, there is some background information that is covered several years before then below. However, most of the project was completed over a five-year timeline that began in 2015, as explained chronologically in the following with specific milestone dates.
KENTON COUNTY'S OFFICE SPACE DILEMMA
The Kenton County Administration Building (KCAB) was located at 303 Court Street in downtown Covington, KY. (See the photo on the right.) The structure was built in 1969 and was occupied by different Government entities. The main occupant was the Kenton County Fiscal Court (KCFC). However, in 2010, the jail in the Kenton County CAB was moved to a new Kenton County Detention Center, some tenants had moved out, and the building was only 40% occupied - mostly by the KCFC. The structure had never had a major renovation, there were mechanical issues (with one of three elevators totally inoperable), and parking was not convenient or free. Elected officials began discussing their options to use the building shortly after the 2000 millennium.
In August of 2010, the Kenton County Fiscal Court (KCFC) commissioned planning and programming services to study the viability of remaining in the building by renovating the KCAB. The main issues for the KCFC were whether they should stay or leave, i.e., renovate or relocate, and how to repurpose the building if they left. Over the next few years, the Kenton County Fiscal Court and Covington officials considered various alternatives.
In early 2015, Kenton County and the City of Covington launched discussions to develop a facility that they could use together. In particular, the development of Duveneck Square, named after a famous Covington-born artist (see Frank Duveneck), was considered. However, with a site size of only 2.29 acres, the location was unable to adequately support on-site surface parking and would require the construction of a garage at an additional cost.
In July of 2015, Kenton County Fiscal Court (KCFC) hired Corporex to spearhead such an evaluation of this cost. A closer examination to renovate the existing KCAB and to explore the costs to repurpose it was deemed necessary. This firm has developed projects around the country and is headquartered in Kenton Co. Corporex has been committed to the county and Covington, and consequently, only charged a fee of $1 for the evaluation. They also had support from Brandsteeter & Carrol Inc., SFA (an architectural firm) and Turner Construction.
In the fall of 2015, Catalytic Funding Corporation (of NKY) was engaged to prepare a comparative relocation analysis of possible sites. The KCFC, presided by Judge Executive Kris Knochelmann, desired not only to relocate their offices from the KCAB, but there was also an interest to consolidate other departments into one county government center. One of the major objectives for the new county office complex was that it needed to have sufficient and free surface parking. It was estimated this would require a site for parking alone of about 3 acres.
In February of 2016 Corporex presented their findings to renovate the existing county building. They estimated the cost for a complete renovation of the existing KCAB, as well as for a possible alternate use for Northern Kentucky University's Chase College of Law, at between $24.5 and $31 million. If work was limited to more mechanical and immediate repairs to make it more inhabitable for the next decade only, the cost was projected to be around $11 million. However, it would likely require the relocation of about 50,000 square feet of space for a year, which would cost another $2 million and create logistical issues.
Repurposing the jail on the top floors would be another expensive proposition. An additional concern was that the site had no onsite parking, other than a public garage across from the structure, and metered street parking. Finally, the county's building was on a rather small site of one-half acre in downtown Covington, and it seemed more feasible to repurpose the building rather than raze it, according to Corporex.
In evaluating other possible locations in Covington, only the former Bavarian Brewery property, containing 4.5 acres, was available and sufficient to meet the noted size requirements. Before this recommendation and during this period, local officials became well aware of the Bavarian Brewery property, shown in the picture above taken in 2016. As discussed in period 12. Columbia Sussex section, there was a "Save the Bavarian" movement to retain the iconic brewery tower. The Urban Design Review Board decided to deny Columbia Sussex's request to demolish the iconic Bavarian Brewery buildings in November, 2014, placing the property in limbo. However, by developing the old Bavarian Brewery property, Kenton County was not only able to solve their space problems - they also had an opportunity to save and repurpose the iconic brewery structure. This provided an opportunity to preserve an important part of the area's heritage. Since Columbia Sussex had been trying to sell this property for several years, it was also an opportunity for them to finally dispose of it.
ACQUIRING THE BAVARIAN BREWERY SITE PROVIDED MULTIPLE SOLUTIONS
Based on the noted factors, the Bavarian Brewery property was considered to be the best location for the new county complex. In addition to its size, it also had other important attributes, including ease of access at an I-75 interchange, good arterial street access, excellent visibility and room for expansion. Furthermore, it gave Kenton County the chance to improve the surrounding area, while still preserving a key portion of the historic brewery. Kenton County began negotiations with Columbia Sussex about acquiring the Bavarian site in early 2016, if not somewhat earlier.
In May of 2016, the KCFC secured an option for the Bavarian Brewery property, and purchased it three months later in July of 2016. The acquisition was unanimously approved by Kenton County Commissioners, Draud, Sewell and Nienaber. Judge Knochelmann was present, but because he owned a partial interest in a property a couple blocks away, he declined to vote. The county acquired the property for $4.5 million, which was less than its selling price of $5.4 million in 2008 and much lower than its listing price for several years of $7 million. Diagrams of the site at the time the property was acquired are shown below. The only buildings that remained on the site are shown in different colors on the lower left diagram.
DESIGNING THE NEW COUNTY FACILITY
In September of 2016, the KCFC issued an RFP for project management services. The winner was a large international engineering and design firm headquartered in New York City, WSP/Parsons Brinkerhoff (now simply called WSP).
On December 14, 2016, in order to obtain public input for the design of the new county facility, a Bavarian Brewery Open House was held for the public at the Covington Latin School. At this event, a summary of alternative sites for the county's project was presented by the Catalytic Funding Corporation, which recommended the Bavarian Brewery site. This study also addressed the county's second county seat and Court House in Independence, KY (see the sidebar) and justified the need to retain it.
In late December, 2016, Kenton County issued an RFP for desing-build teams to submit their qualifications to submit development proposals for the new KCAB.
On January 16, 2017, another Open House was held in Edgewood, KY.
One County, Two Courthouses
A unique aspect of Kenton County is that it is just one of 32 counties from over 3,000 in the U.S. that has two county seats. (The only other county to share this arrangement in Kentucky is adjacent Campbell County, which has county seats in Newport and Alexandria.) Kenton County considered consolidating their courthouses, as addressed in the aforesaid study by Catalytic Funding Corporation. However, to adequately serve the county's residents, it was deemed necessary to retain the Court House in Independence, while providing it with some needed repairs and improvements.
On February 27, 2017, three teams were selected to provide proposals. The lead firms were Turner Construction, HGC Contstuction and Megen/Turnbull-Wahlert Construction. Of note, Megen was previously involved in renovating the property for Ken Lewis as the BrewWorks two decades earlier.
On March 2, 2017 the short list of bidders was released and their proposals were due by June 7, 2017.
On June, 21, 2017, the Fiscal Court unanimously voted to approve a contract with the Turner Construction Co. team, which included AL. Neyer, Brandsteeter Carrol Inc., SFA Architects, Inc. (now Elevar Design Group), THP Limited Inc., and Urban Sites. Completely separate new and old buildings were proposed in the "alternative concept" by the Megen team. In contrast, the Turner team created what the county considered the "preferred concept": connecting the iconic tower edifice (the south building) to a new modern structure (the north building) with a four story atrium. This atrium provided bridges on different levels that joined the two building together. Some of the initial and preferred renderings for the project, which resulted in the Turner team winning this project, are displayed below.
BUILDING THE NEW KENTON COUNTY COMPLEX
On September 25, 2017, a groundbreaking ceremony for what was initially called the new Kenton County Administration Building was held with elected officials, as shown in the photo on the right. Unfortunately, the old Stock House on the Brewery site had some challenges to be repurposed, such as very few windows thick walls, and structural issues So local authorities decided it needed to be demolished. The area north of the former Brew and Mill Houses also needed to be excavated for the new building. During this process, some of the abandoned brewery tunnels as discussed in section 4B, were demolished as well.
From June 22 to July 7, 2017, there was a public comment period, providing an opportunity for residents and others from the public to provide input. A couple weeks later, the contract execution was completed.
From June 22 to July 7, 2017, there was a public comment period, offering an opportunity for residents and others from the public to provide input. A couple weeks later, the contract execution was completed.
In October of 2017, demolition and excavation began. The completion date was expected to fall in the Spring of 2019. Some early views of the property as demolition began are shown above. From left to right is the Brew House and original Stock House, the Stock House Addition, and - in the photo with Glier's Goetta building (formerly Bavarian's Bottling Department, which was not was not part of the development) - the iconic tower is shown in the distance with the Stock House removed.
The above photos of the tower building were taken in 2018. From left to right;
the southwest corner of the second floor (for the Riedlin-Schott Community Room), the northern portion of the third floor and bar, the circular bar, the fourth floor and the fifth floor.
On August 21,2018, updated renderings by the Turner team were provided, as shown below. Some of the changes included the removal of the staircase from 12th Street to the main parking lot in the front of the building, as well as the outdoor umbrella area next to this staircase; there was also no longer a secondary front entrance in the middle of the tower building. In addition, the back of the new building had some different heights and the back entrance was set along a graded area, not a wall. The parking areas were also increased and slightly modified both in front and back, and some signage was added on top of the north side of the new building.
The new county complex was expected to cost about $25 million, contain a total of about 90,000 square feet and accommodate approximately 350 employees. This office space was not only more functional for the county employees - combining multiple departments - but it also provided much easier access and parking for residents and others needing to visit these county facilities. The address of the property was changed from 1200 Jillian's Way to 1840 Simon Kenton Way, reflecting the namesake of the county.
THE COMPLETED KENTON COUNTY GOVERNMENT CENTER
In the summer of 2019, employees began moving into the new complex. As the project was nearing completion, there was a change in the name of the development from the Kenton County Administration Building (KCAB) to the Kenton County Government Center (KCGC). This new name distinguished itself from the former KCAB to indicate that the project consisted of more than one building (actually north and south buildings) and that it was the center of the county government, with a collection of all county departments.
By the fall of 2019, five county departments had moved into the complex, but landscaping was not completed until mid-November and there was still some minor work being completed. Photos of the completed complex are below.
THE DEDICATION AND UNVEILING OF THE BAVARIAN BREWERY EXHIBIT
On November 15, 2019, the Kenton County Government Center was formally dedicated in a tent located in the parking lot in front of the building. After the dedication, an open house provided all in attendance with an opportunity to tour the building, including the unveiling of the Bavarian Brewery Exhibit. This exhibit is located in the ground floor of the former Brew House and begins next to the Information Desk. The main display is a Brewery Wall - resembling the originally brewery complex before Prohibition - with over 20 windows and more than 60 panes that provide a storybook telling of the brewery’s history. The exhibit covers the brewery’s beginning in 1866 and continues until it was closed a century later in 1966. It also traces the history of the brewery property more than 50 years afterwards. A barrel display at the end of the "wall" contains some Bavarian Breweriana, mostly donated from a descendant of the brewery's owners. He also created the content for all of the windows, mostly from family photographs and collectibles he procured or obtained from others, in addition to providing financial support for the exhibit. A virtual tour of the exhibit, providing an image of each window, is stored on OneDrive and can be accessed here.
From left to right, top row; the front of the KCGC from Simon Kenton Way, the back of the tower and loading dock from 12th St. (both in November, 2019, at dusk), and the complex in early 2020. Bottom row, the Lobby with wall directories and the Information Desk, the cupola from the 5th floor and the atrium and second floor of the new north building. The background of this page also displays a photo of the former brewery tower, which can best be viewed by scrolling to the bottom of this page.
As an extension of the Brewery Exhibit, two display cases were built on the second floor directly above the first floor exhibits. In addition, a Riedlin-Schott Room, named after the families that owned the Bavarian Brewery for over 80 years, on the far south side of the second floor, is intended to be used for community purposes. A preliminary rendering of this room can be viewed here.
The Background photo is the completed Kenton County Government Center in November, 2019,
just before it was Dedicated.