On the road along the Avenue Highway between Covington and Ludlow, the commercial area of the Altamont Road district passes like a little noticed blip.
But residents of the surrounding Botany Hills neighborhood have created a plan to change that perception.
With the help of the local Devou Good Foundation and the City of Covington, the group hopes to energize the neighborhood’s shopping ‘hub’ by slowing down heavy traffic, increasing the ability to walk, filling vacant storefronts with businesses and jobs, planting trees, creating a makerspace cafe or retail food establishment for restaurants and increasing property values.
The plan – called “Botany Hills Urban Junction” – recently won the city’s long-running competitive process award called The RIPPLE Effect, which will bring $ 200,000 in publicly funded infrastructure improvements as well as targeted application of policies. city services.
In return, members of the Botany Hills group will make their own contributions in the form of volunteer hours, private funding and in-kind donations.
The project is the second selected to be part of The RIPPLE Effect, which was designed to help neighborhoods implement a series of improvements. (The word “ripple” is an acronym that means “Revitalization includes people, places, lifestyles, and economic investment.”)
The first was awarded in 2019 to the Lewisburg Thorofare Project in 2019.
“The RIPPLE effect is a way to bring public improvement dollars to a part of town that hasn’t historically received a lot of public investment, and Botany Hills certainly fits that category,” said Jeremy Wallace. , Head of Federal Grants at Covington’s Neighborhood Services. Department.
The private investor of the Botany Hills grant proposal, the Devou Good Foundation, will contribute $ 50,000 to the initiative. The organization partners with non-profit organizations to assess the unique needs of communities in the region and help facilitate projects to meet those identified needs.
Wallace said the foundation’s track record was critical to securing the RIPPLE grant.
“The Botany Hills proposal was selected based on the Devou Good Foundation’s track record in delivering community development projects,” Wallace said. “They have been involved in several projects to bring new leisure opportunities to Devou Park and other parts of the city.”
City officials will work with members of the Botany Hills group over the coming months to determine which of the proposed public improvements are feasible as well as to identify areas where various city departments can provide services to the region.
The proposal includes a range of public improvements such as improved crosswalks on Altamont Street and Highway Avenue, tree plantations, improved bus stops, bike racks, trash / recycling bins , dog waste stations, neighborhood entrance signs, upgrades to existing neighborhood signs / landscaping, improvement of commercial building facades and repair of access steps to bridge / passage Lower Parkway Avenue.
These improvements, and the momentum that could come from them, are exciting for businesses and / or organizations in Botany Hills.
Shannon Starkey-Taylor, CEO of Learning Grove, supported the neighborhood proposal, speaking from the perspective of a company that has long operated in the area.
“We have been operating a high quality child development center at the corner of the Autobahn and Altamont for over 20 years and believe that a greater investment in the neighborhood will allow our Montessori Early Learning Academy to manage a more financially sustainable program, ”said Starkey-Taylor. .
Jody Robinson, a former Botany Hills resident who works with the Devou Good Foundation on some of its projects, said the proposal is for an “anti-pedestrian” part of the road that connects Covington to one of its great assets – Devou Park.
“The upgrades will help this historic district realize its potential by providing a pleasant and pedestrian-friendly neighborhood,” said Robinson. “The proposed traffic calming features, along with the sidewalk and crosswalk improvements, will serve the diverse population of the neighborhood, including churches, businesses and visitors, by improving the safety of pedestrians, cyclists. , motorists and property. ”
Robinson said the group expects the completion of a regional walking and biking trail along the Ohio River called Riverfront Commons to increase pedestrian activity. Shifting attention, she said, from routing cars along Highway – aka Ky. 8 – to moving people safely is important both for those in the area. outside the immediate area and for those who live there.
“It’s an important hallway, but it’s also a neighborhood and a way for people to connect with their work and their lives,” said Robinson.
RIPPLE funding will help reduce crashes and speed, while increasing pedestrian use, Robinson said.
“But it’s getting better,” Robinson said. “This investment in the neighborhood will stimulate private improvements and business interest in this well-placed neighborhood connecting Covington to Ludlow and beyond.”
Ultimately, she said, the grant presents an “opportunity” and an important opportunity.
“Economic development can change neighborhood pride,” said Robinson. “You start to see tree plantations and rehabilitations. These things happen when you are able to do something important.
Town of Covington