On occasion, the planets do align and a person with the appropriate knowledge, skills, enthusiasm, and temperament is hired to fill an employment position. Fortunately, this has occurred at the City of Covington, Kentucky in their hiring in November, 2018 of the new Historic Preservationist & Planning Specialist: Christopher Myers.
Although young at the age of 26 and new to our region, Mr. Myers brings a unique perspective to this position in Covington with his dual degrees in historic preservation, as well as urban development and planning— both realized at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. This dichotomy between the reverence for buildings from our past juxtaposed with the necessary acknowledgment of economic development pressures for present and future needs is the combination which Mr. Myers brings to Covington. Instead of looking at these to be in opposition to each other, Mr. Myers firmly believes that the pairing of preservation with development will be the needed ingredients for Covington’s renaissance.
As a part of Mr. Myers’ position, he is very much involved with rewriting the city’s new zoning code which will be unveiled in 18 months. Instead of creating a “one-size-fits-all” remedy, this new zoning code will divide into individual, unique districts throughout Covington which each have their own special characteristics and needs. Acknowledging and embracing these variations, as well as distinctions, are what make cities interesting places in which to live and visit.
Mr. Myers cannot stress enough what an undiscovered treasure Covington represents. With an enormous 19th and early 20th– century architectural building stock, the city is not just venerable, but also infused with exquisite details ranging from a vast array of window lintel/hood ornamentation, cornices, mosaic tile entries, chimneys, elaborate doorways, and metalwork. Unlike many other cities which have lost much through urban renewal, federal highways, economic neglect, or simply the indifference, or worse—the lack of appreciation for one’s heritage, Covington has managed to survive rather successfully for two centuries. Certainly, a large section of Downtown Covington was lost when the area between the Roebling Suspension and the Brent Spence Bridges approximately 4 blocks deep was razed along with the I-75/71 corridor in the late 1950’s-early 1960’s. Most of these buildings were replaced by parking lots, automobile dealerships, fast food eateries, motels, convenience stores, gas stations, liquor stores, and the I.R.S. regional headquarters (this latter property will soon be returned to Covington with its closure, allowing an opportunity for a large redevelopment in the heart of the city). In spite of these losses, much elsewhere remains intact, with many of its most notable buildings still standing.
Covington is fortunate to have 18 districts and individual listings recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, the city has 7 historic preservation overlay zones in which alterations of building facades need city approval. Mr. Myers sees these as critical in the city’s rebirth for living, working, and pleasure in order to maintain Covington’s historic character.
He is excited about some upcoming events taking place from March 8-9, 2019: the annual Northern Kentucky Restoration Weekend Seminar and the River Cities Preservation Awards. This restoration weekend will provide seminars, workshops, and meetings while marrying experts, vendors, and skilled craftsmen with owners of historic properties in order to teach different techniques, design guidelines, and regulations. With Covington’s handsome buildings abounding, Mr. Myers wants to encourage the appreciation and maintenance of our existing built-environment. This collection of architectural treasures and heritage is what will bring interest and recognition to Covington nationally.
For Mr. Myers, the earliest impression of a community was his childhood home: Charleston, South Carolina. Although he was then too young to realize what a special place Charleston is, he came to understand through his observations that all the residents and tourists revered this community, regardless of social status, sex, race, age, ethnicity, income, religion, and much more. This common bond and spirit of its citizenry unite Charleston and give it this unique identity known worldwide. Mr. Myers realizes how lucky he was to be able to experience one of America’s great historic community success stories at such an early age; this helped to influence his choice of urban planning, development, and historic preservation for his professional career. Other communities which have had an impact on him include Muncie and Indianapolis, Indiana for his college education and post-graduation life respectively. In both cities, Mr. Myers became actively involved in their planning process and helped direct his interest and appreciation of preservation with development and zoning.
This experience and awareness allows him to recognize Covington as a hidden gem awaiting its discovery. As one of Kentucky’s largest cities which happens to be opposite Cincinnati on the mighty Ohio River, located along one of America’s most travelled expressways (I-75/71), and adjacent to the region’s international airport, Covington is well-situated to achieve deserved notice for its 2 centuries of charm, heritage, and architecture. With Mr. Myers’ enthusiasm, vision, guidance, and leadership, Covington’s renaissance will be forthcoming.
–Stewart S. Maxwell