$4M shortfall means Riverfront Commons in Covington will take longer to finish; grant could help

City will break project into affordable chunks

COVINGTON, Ky. — A $10 million project that will complete the Riverfront Commons trail between Greenup Street and Madison Avenue in Covington has a $4 million shortfall, said Mayor Joe Meyer.

That means the work will be broken into affordable pieces, with work stretching out two to three years. The pathway itself, however, should be completed by the end of 2018, said Mike Yeager, Covington development director.

Covington officials will apply for a grant by the end of 2017 that could pay for an additional $2 million of work, Yeager said. 

Riverfront Commons is a walkway/bikeway that, when done, will connect Ludlow, Covington, Newport, Bellevue and Fort Thomas to Cincinnati trails across the Purple People Bridge. The trail that runs west from Madison Avenue is installed but awaiting lighting, said Yeager.

The stretch from Greenup Street to Madison Avenue is not just any ordinary trail but will include a public park and activity spaces that are designed to complement Cincinnati’s Smale Riverfront Park. This section of amenities, called “betterments” in the city’s plan, is expected to reach a little bit older crowd.

“We want to make it an experience for everyone,” said Yeager.

Amenities to the east of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge near the existing flood wall murals will include a sculptural canopy and interactive water features. (Rendering provided)

Chris Manning, principal and landscape architect for Human Nature Inc., said visitors can expect the following features, among others:

  • Digital art mapping: This project will use the pier of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge as a canvas for light shows similar to Cincinnati’s annual Lumenocity event. “You’ll be able to sit on urban bleachers (with more lights built in) and look at the river or sit and watch this performance,” said Manning. Brave Berlin, the company involved with Lumenocity, is involved with that part of the plan.
  • Steel canopies: Designed to provide shade with a sense of nature, the canopies with have fogging and misting water features and more design-producing lights. The canopy with its digital level will hover above the 100-year flood plain, he said. “We wanted something exciting but that would not compete with the existing murals.
  • Waterfall at Madison: A waterfall will be complemented with fountains that will be built on old piers. Again, color will be added through lights at night. There will also be a sculpture of sort that frames the view from either side.

When it’s all said and done there will be an interactive piece that could include a rock climbing wall, kayak and canoe access to the river, as well as an on-land zip line that could include a line across the river, Manning said. The hope is to provide interactivity in an urban setting.

A water taxi could also be a part of the final plan, he said. There’s a landing just west of Madison Avenue that today is used occasionally to ferry people to Cincinnati’s public landing. But the new water taxi would operate daily.

Cincinnati architects and engineers Woolpert Inc. and KZF Design are also involved with the project.

Manning said officials hope to complete this section of Riverfront Commons in two or three phases over two to three years. The plan is to complete construction drawings this winter so conduits for data and utilities can be created before the trail — to avoid digging up the work later.

There’s a second part to the plan that has indeterminate costs, said Meyer. It includes connecting more with Covington’s downtown.

Riverfront Commons continues to Madison Avenue, where visitors will eventually find a waterfall, fountains on old existing piers in the river and a gateway sculpture. (Rendering provided)

Ongoing construction along Riverside Drive near the Suspension Bridge isn’t part of the Riverfront Commons project, said Yeager. That work, to stabilize Riverside Drive and the sidewalk, is done every couple of years, he said. The city is building a wall to keep the earth beneath the sidewalk from moving.

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