Developer Joshua One's next big thing: Up to 200 homes, condos on former Gateway campus in Covington

Site's $3.2 million sale is to close Monday
Developer Joshua One's next big thing: Up to 200 homes, condos on former Gateway campus in Covington
Posted at 7:01 AM, May 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 07:43:52-04

COVINGTON, Ky. -- The company behind a Covington condominium complex that overlooks much of Northern Kentucky and downtown Cincinnati plans to move ahead with a second Covington project that will try to capitalize on panoramic views.

Covington-based Joshua One intends to build between 100 and 200 condos and single-family homes on about 26 acres that had been one of the campuses for Gateway Community & Technical College. Gateway quit offering classes at the campus in the last couple of years.

Joshua One managing member Paul Zeltwanger said his company sees the new project as a logical extension of its development of the Views, the 70-unit condominium complex perched high above Pike Street on Covington’s western fringe. That project was launched just before the economy plummeted during the Great Recession.

“We started early in ’08, and then the economy slowed down and that’s what slowed (the development) down,” Zeltwanger said. “But we got through that phase, and it’s picked up pretty significantly in the last year and a half.... I would definitely call it a success. People love it up there, and sales are strong. Everything is completed – the roads are completed, the clubhouse. There was never any bankruptcy – none of that.

“It just took longer than what was planned, primarily because of the Great Recession.”

Zeltwanger, whose company has developed three upscale residential projects in Cincinnati, said he thinks the hillside in Covington is a great place to build.

“The whole area – it’s unique that it has spectacular views, and so since we view the Views as a success, it was kind of a continuation of that,” Zeltwanger said. “It’s new construction, close to everything, but away from it a little bit.... We took the biggest risk initially in the Views, and it’s gone pretty well, so why not try to continue it?”

Because planning the development and providing necessary infrastructure will be complicated, Zeltwanger said construction probably won’t begin until next year.

A limited liability corporation that is working with Joshua One, CondoView LLC, closed Tuesday on the $3.2 million purchase, said Zeltwanger, whose company has its office in the Views. Zeltwanger said he will be one of the investors in the LLC.

The property straddles the border between Covington and Park Hills. Nearly 22 acres that overlook much of urban Greater Cincinnati are in Covington, where the former Gateway buildings are located; the other four acres are in Park Hills. What was once Park Hills Elementary School is tucked behind the Gateway buildings. It’s doubtful that any of the existing buildings will be retained, Zeltwanger said.

He said the land is zoned for a planned unit development, which would allow for the construction of single-family homes and multi-family dwellings. 

Covington Mayor Joe Meyer said state legislation stipulates that the proceeds of the sale must be used by Gateway inside the city of Covington, where the college had ambitious plans to build an Urban Metro Campus that would bring thousands of students downtown during the week. The college’s aggressive plans for downtown Covington have been scaled back substantially, though, and Gateway will use only a tiny fraction of the buildings it controls for the coming school year.

Gateway and the state’s community college system and the Gateway Foundation, a nonprofit that is separate from the state-sponsored college but works with it, own seven buildings in the city’s downtown business district. An eighth building was demolished for a project that has not progressed.

Meyer said he sent a letter to Jay Box, president of the state’s community college system, about six weeks ago to remind Box that the sale proceeds are supposed to be used in Covington. A spokeswoman for Box said last week that he had not received a letter from Meyer. The mayor said he was surprised by that news and that he would send another copy of the letter to Box.

Infrastructure questions are critical at this point, Zeltwanger said. “We have a good geotechnical understanding of the area,” he said, referring to the properties of the rock and soil at the site. “The biggest issue is the infrastructure needs – sewer, water, stormwater, roads, access, etc. – so that’s the piece that makes it especially challenging.”

Building a new road to the site or improving Patton Drive, the existing road that snakes up the hill off Amsterdam Road, are among the developers’ options.

One alterative no longer exists: Park Hills Mayor Matt Mattone said that city passed an ordinance last October that closes Old State Road at the site of the former Park Hills Elementary School, one of the tracts being sold by the state. Closing the road rules out access to the site through a quiet residential neighborhood in Park Hills. A grassy field with a narrow pedestrian path leads to the Gateway buildings that are in Covington.

Gateway had solicited bids for the property last year, when the offers ranged from $1.15 million to $3 million. That high bid had been submitted by Joshua One, which bumped up its offer by $200,000 in February. A late March news release from Gateway said that a $3.2 million offer equaled the “fair market value” of the property and had been approved by the secretary of Kentucky’s Finance and Administration Cabinet.

Gateway, the Finance and Administration Cabinet and the community college system all declined to reveal anything about how many bids were received, who the bidders were or the amount of the bids until they received a formal request using provisions of the state’s freedom of information act. The cabinet and college system both said state law prohibits them from revealing anything about the bids until the sale of the property was finalized.