Elements of Urbanism: Covington, Kentucky

September 15, 2010 17 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville visits Northern Kentucky's largest city: Covington

Covington Population 2009: 43,082 (City); 2,155,137 (Cincinnati Metro) - (incorporated in 1828)

Jacksonville Pop. 2009: 813,518 (City); 1,328,144 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Covington (64,452)

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2009)

Covington: +7.249% (Cincinnati MSA)
Jacksonville: +18.29%


Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Covington: 1,503,262 (Cincinnati urban area ranked 26 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)


Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Covington: 2,237.8 (Cincinnati)
Jacksonville: 2,149.2


City Population Growth from 2000 to 2009

Covington: -288
Jacksonville: +72,312


Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Covington: Northern Kentucky Convention Center (1998) - 110,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet

Adjacent to Convention Center:

Covington: Marriott RiverCenter (321 units)
Jacksonville: N/A


Tallest Building:

Covington: RiverCenter I - 308 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet


Fortune 500 companies 2009 (City limits only):

Covington: Ashland (310), Omnicare (392)
Jacksonville: CSX (240), Winn-Dixie (340)


Urban infill obstacles:

Covington: N/A
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

Covington/Northern Kentucky: Newport on the Levee, MainStrasse Village
Jacksonville: East Bay Street & vicinity


Common Downtown Albatross:

Stagnant growth.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Covington: 89 out of 100, according to walkscore.com
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

City Land Area

Covington: 13.1 square miles
Jacksonville: 767 square miles

Green = Jacksonville's city limits (current urban core) before consolidation in 1968
Red = Jacksonville's current consolidated city-county limits

Jacksonville's current and original city limit boundaries over Covington (blue) & Newport's (red) city limits.

Covington is a city in Kenton County, Kentucky, United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 43,370; it is the fifth-most-populous city in Kentucky.  It is one of two county seats of Kenton County. Covington is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking Rivers. Covington is part of the Cincinnati – Northern Kentucky metropolitan area and is separated from Cincinnati by the Ohio River and from Newport by the Licking River.

Covington was established in 1814 when John Gano, Richard Gano, and Thomas Carneal purchased 150 acres on the west side of the Licking River at its confluence with the Ohio River, referred to as "the Point," from Thomas Kennedy for $50,000. The city was incorporated by the Kentucky General Assembly a year later. Covington experienced growth during most of the 19th century, only to decline during the Great Depression and the middle 20th century. The city has seen some redevelopment during the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Main Street

After 1830, in large part because of the influx of German immigrants, Covington's population began to grow significantly, creating a number of distinct and diverse neighborhoods within the city. This growth was recognized by the Kentucky legislature, which, in February 1834, incorporated the town as a city. By 1840, the population in the city increased to 2,026, which included eleven free blacks and 89 slaves.

This population resided not only within the established boundaries of the city but outside, causing the city to undertake its first annexation, which extended the city to Main Street to the west and 12th Street to the south. This annexation brought the neighborhoods now known as Mutter Gottes and Mainstrasse.

Fueled in part by the European revolutions of the mid-1800s, many Europeans, particularly Germans, immigrated to Covington. At this time, the primary commercial district and gathering place was on Main Street near Sixth Street, the area now known as "Mainstrasse." Sixth Street was laid out with a wide width that allowed the city, in 1861, to establish a public market in the center of the street with traffic lanes on either side. The nearby Mutter Gottes Kirche (Mother of God Church), built in 1871, was the center of another German-speaking neighborhood.

The Madison and Pike Street commercial corridor

the area of Madison Avenue and Pike Street became the city's primary commercial center during the rest of 19th century and into the 20th century.

With a train stop at Russell and Pike Streets, which was also near the terminus of the Covington and Lexington Turnpike, the area of the city soon became a beehive of commercial activity. Packing houses, groceries, dry goods stores, meat markets, printers, jewelers, saloons, lumber yards, machine shops, hardware stores, and more than 20 hotels cropped up in this area of the city.

Northern Kentucky Convention Center

The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge spans the Ohio River between Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Kentucky. When the first pedestrians crossed on December 1, 1866, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1,057 feet (322 m) main span. Today, many pedestrians use the bridge to get between the arenas in Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium, Great American Ball Park, and U.S. Bank Arena) and the hotels, bars, restaurants, and parking lots in Northern Kentucky. The bar and restaurant district at the foot of the bridge on the Kentucky side is known as Roebling Point.

Ramps were constructed leading directly from the bridge to the Dixie Terminal building used for street cars. These provided Covington trolleys "with a grade separated route to the center of downtown, and the terminal building was originally intended to connect, via underground pedestrian passages, with the never-built Fountain Square Station of the infamous Cincinnati subway."  When street car service ceased in the 1950s the terminal was converted to use as a diesel bus terminal. The ramps were removed in 1998 when it ceased being used as a bus terminal.

The Ascent at Roebling's Bridge is a residential building costing approximately $50 million. Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, the building sits along the Ohio River across from the Roebling Bridge. It was commissioned in 2004 and was completed in March 2008. Many newspapers, including the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Wall Street Journal, have associated the Ascent with a trend toward signature architecture for residential buildings.


Libeskind, who had been a professor at the nearby University of Kentucky in Lexington in the 1970s, says that the Ohio River and the Roebling Bridge influenced his design. The building stands 293 feet (89 m) tall, 22 stories (including one lobby, secure parking level, amenities level and 19 floors of luxury condominiums) and ends in a sloped spiral roof. The concrete structure slopes outward from its base on its the eastern face and is clad in a glass curtain wall. It houses 70 condominiums.

Studio Daniel Libeskind collaborated with GBBN Architects, THP Limited, and KLH Engineering for the building's construction.

Riverside Drive Historic District

The Riverside Drive Historic District is a historic district located at the west bank of the confluence of the Licking River and the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky, directly across from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Riverside Drive was a popular place to build the finest houses in Covington, with many still standing from the early 19th century. Over thirty of the buildings in the district are considered exceptional samples of their architectural style.

Newport on Levee

Newport on the Levee is a lifestyle center that opened on the Newport waterfront in 2001.  Tenants include AMC Newport 20 Theatres, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, GameWorks and the Newport Aquarium.

The city of Newport sits at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking Rivers. The population was 17,048 at the 2000 census. Today, Newport is becoming the entertainment community of the fast-growing Northern Kentucky area while its neighboring cities--Bellevue and Covington--become the business centers.


Settled about 1791, on land granted to George Muse, purchased by James Taylor Sr. and settled by his son James Taylor, Jr.. Newport was incorporated as a town in 1795 and in 1850 Newport received a city charter. In 1803 the Ft. Washington military post was moved from Cincinnati to become the Newport Barracks. In 1900, 28,301 people lived in Newport, Kentucky; in 1910, 30,309; in 1920, 29,317; and in 1940, 30,631.

Newport once had the reputation of "Sin City" due to its upscale gambling casinos on Monmouth street. Monmouth also had many men's stores, nice restaurants, and ice cream parlors. Investigations for racketeering pushed out the casinos, which were replaced by peep shows and adult strip clubs. Many of the old businesses disappeared when parking became difficult on Monmouth street and the commercial district opened on the hill of south Newport.

In the 1980s and 1990s Newport made plans to develop its riverfront and core to focus primarily on "family friendly" tourism, instead of the "Sin City" tourism of the past. In May 1999 the $40-million Newport Aquarium opened, and the historic Posey Flats apartments were leveled in favor of the Newport on the Levee entertainment complex, which opened the following year.


The Newport, Kentucky World Peace Bell is one of more than twenty Peace Bells around the World. It weighs 33,285 kg (73,381 lb) and is 3.7 m (12 feet) wide. From 2000 until 2006, it was the largest swinging bell in the World. It was dedicated on December 31, 1999, and was first swung as the year 2000 opened.

Article by Ennis Davis