By Cindy Schroeder
Enquirer staff writer
COVINGTON - Nearly 20 years after the widening of 12th Street was first discussed, city officials have endorsed a plan to improve the Covington gateway marred by heavy truck traffic and blighted or vacant buildings.
Covington City Commission gave unanimous support Tuesday to a plan for redeveloping 12th Street after the state widens the heavily traveled road. In 2007, Kentucky transportation officials plan to start converting the two narrow lanes into a broad boulevard that will improve traffic flow between Interstate 75 and Covington's downtown.
"I think this is the beginning of a new era for 12th Street,'' Commissioner Jerry Bamberger said.
Covington's $64,152 redevelopment plan for 12th Street - created by Lexington-based H.W. Lochner Inc. and Winter & Co. of Boulder, Colo. - calls for smaller shops and residential buildings along the street's southern edge to mesh with the area's older brick architecture.
Traffic on the widened 12th Streetalso will be separated from the surrounding neighborhoods by a 20-foot median that will prevent traffic on Lee and Banklick Streets from crossing 12th Street, also known as Ky. 1120.
"This will make a good entryway into the city,'' said Joe Lubbers, who's lived near 12th and Lee streets for most of his 66 years. "Right now, if you come down 12th Street, it's rundown, and you think, 'Is this the best the city has to offer?' " Since the mid-1980s, many of the tightly packed houses and commercial buildings along 12th Street have deteriorated, while Kentucky transportation officials debated various plans to widen and improve the thoroughfare that links Covington and Newport.
"People were afraid to put money into their homes because they were afraid they were going to be taken,'' Lubbers said. "Now people on the north side of 12th Street will have an incentive to improve their property. This will attract businesses and tourists and give Covington another major entry into the city.''
In other action, the city commission discussed allowing Sunday sales of package liquor so that local businesses can compete with those in neighboring communities.
Several local governments, including Bellevue, Fort Mitchell and Crescent Springs, have agreed to allow sales of package liquor after 11 a.m. on Sundays. Fort Wright also is considering a change.
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