Thursday, June 10, 2004

Business gets a new advocate

Covington group wants development plan

By Travis Gettys
Enquirer contributor

COVINGTON - Betty Sander started her new job May 17 as executive director of Covington Business Council, a group that pushed for the construction of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center and a city parking garage.

"Our mission is to advocate for a healthy business environment," said Sander.

She'll spend her first three months on the job talking to residents and business owners to come up with a plan to encourage development in neighborhoods that have not yet felt the effects of the city's renaissance.

"She knows a lot of people already, so she's got a leg up," said Mayor Butch Callery of the former neighborhood development specialist for Covington Community Center.

Sander met Wednesday with community members at Tiara's Cafe, a restaurant opened last month at 724 Madison Ave. by former Cafe Cin-Cin owner Ralph Shepard and his wife, Tiara Clark-Shepard.

"I've never been in a city that has this many people willing to help," said Sander, a Chicago native.

She said she hopes to continue the momentum gathered by the city and its business council with a downtown farmers market and a widened 12th Street, a long-planned project that remains on hold until state lawmakers approve funding.

While city officials try to lure the Maisonette, the perennial five-star restaurant, some residents have another Cincinnati institution in mind.

"We could use a Graeter's," said Ann Saul.

Other residents say the city should focus on niche retail shops, like clothing and shoe stores.

"We have Fabulous-Furs, which is a very viable store nationwide," said resident Mary Ann Courtoy. "We just need more to go with it."

Callery said city officials hope to turn Madison Avenue between Fifth and Eighth streets into a "wedding district," where shoppers can buy wedding dresses and cakes, rent tuxedos and hire DJs.

An arts district is also planned near Pike Street and Madison Avenue, which will include studios and galleries with affordable apartment space above.

"We think that would draw people downtown," Callery said.

Real estate agent Nancy Peterman said she'd like to see businesses that cater to people who live and work downtown, like delicatessens, bakeries and dry cleaners.

"I bring people into Covington," she said. "It's up to the business council to provide retail."

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