COVINGTON— A Northern Kentucky community college is investing an ambitious $81.5 million into a new urban campus in the hopes it will become the foundation for urban economic development in Covington. The new Gateway Community & Technical College campus itself will be nestled in roughly a six-block area in Covington's Central Business District.
Gateway buildings and partnerships are expected to spread throughout Northern Kentucky's largest city, filling up long-vacant storefronts and bringing new foot traffic for existing businesses — and, hopefully, new ones.
"I can't recall a time when there's been more proposed transformative change in the urban core," Pat Frew, executive director of the Covington Business Council, told The Kentucky Enquirer. "There's just such a potential for growing the economic pie down here."
Ed Hughes, Gateway's president, said last week the location not only will give students the best educational experience but will also provide the greatest economic impact on the city. The urban campus is a critical part of the Center City Action Plan to revitalize the central business district and surrounding neighborhoods.
Over the past year city officials have worked aggressively to lay the groundwork for a new economic development boom in Covington.
The announcement that Gateway is moving aggressively on the urban campus is expected to generate significant momentum to continue and sustain those efforts.
"This is truly going to be transformational for the urban core," said Mayor Chuck Scheper. "There's a new energy, there's a new enthusiasm, there's a new appreciation for 'We can do this. We can move this city forward.' "
While the most direct impact of the urban campus will be felt in Covington, ultimately it could be an economic boon to the entire six-city riverfront region by bringing more people into the area and spurring economic growth.
"This urban core can be very, very successful — it can be a destination," said Jack Moreland, president of the riverfront economic development agency Southbank Partners. "But we have to provide the kinds of things that people want to do. And that includes a whole range of things: education and jobs and businesses that are user-friendly. But we're on the right track."