OneNKY Center coming to Covington riverfront

Kenton Hornbeck
Kenton Hornbeck
Kenton is a reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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A forthcoming addition to Covington’s riverfront is planned to the new home to several Northern Kentucky growth organizations.

On Thursday, the Kenton County Fiscal Court unanimously voted to provide credit enhancement for up to $10 million in construction bonds to build the OneNKY Center. The bonds are slated to be issued by the Kentucky Association of County Officials.

The office building will house most of Northern Kentucky’s growth organizations, such as the NKY Chamber of Commerce, meetNKY, OneNKY Alliance, The Catalytic Fund of Northern Kentucky, BE NKY Growth Partnership, Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky and Northern Kentucky Bar Association.

As of now, the OneNKY Center is 93% leased, and all tenants have committed to locating into the building, according to a Northern Kentucky Port Authority press release.

“Bringing key regional organizations handling economic development, tourism, etc., together in the OneNKY Center will improve their ability to elevate Northern Kentucky, while increasing the efficiency of their backroom operations,” said Kenton County Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann in a press release.

The bond issuance is still subject to approval by the State Local Debt Officer. The building will be owned by the Northern Kentucky Port Authority — a multi-jurisdictional economic development organization that facilitates river port projects along the Ohio and Licking Rivers.

“Launching the Northern Kentucky Port Authority as an active player in economic development has been a priority of our board of directors for several years,” said BE NKY Growth Partnership CEO and President Lee Crume. “In 2019, we began the groundwork that led to the role the Northern Kentucky Port Authority is playing in the OneNKY Center and are proud that it is the building’s owner.”

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The bonds are a large part of the project’s capital stack. Overall, the construction project is expected to cost $26 million. Other funding is coming from the Covington Life Sciences Partners, the Haile Foundation, Horizon Community Funds, Durr Foundation and Drees Foundation, and the sale of the land by St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

A second rendering of the yet-to-be-constructed OneNKY Center. Photo provided | Phoenix Architecture

The OneNKY Center will be located at the foot of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Covington. The spot is currently a parking lot in front of The Gruff. The building will feature 43,000 square feet of Class A office space and 44 underground parking spaces.

Construction is expected to begin this summer. Covington-based Corporex was chosen as the project’s design-build contractor after a Request for Proposal, or RFP, process was conducted.

The Covington Sciences Lab will have up to 15,000 square feet on the second floor inside the OneNKY Center. The state of Kentucky provided $15 million for the life sciences lab through House Bill 1, the state’s two-year budget legislation, which the Kentucky General Assembly passed in April 2022.

“The Covington Life Science Lab will build on Covington’s growing reputation as a hub for high-tech advancements in this critical sector, and it will bring to fruition our vision when we started this process two years ago,” said Covington Mayor Joe Meyer in the release. “Companies like Bexion, CTI, and Gravity Diagnostics are wowing the world, and we hope this lab will help many other new companies along that same path.”

Established in November 2022, Covington Life Sciences Partners Inc., or CLSP, is a non-profit organization founded to advance science, education and entrepreneurship in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati region. The CLSP signed a 99-year, $12 million lease with the Port Authority for space in the OneNKY Center.

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“It’s exciting to see this project move forward with collaboration from business and government leaders,” said CLSP Co-chair and St. Elizabeth Healthcare CEO Garren Colvin in the release. “If Northern Kentucky is going to be one of the healthiest regions in the country, we need to have businesses that are poised for future growth–like biotechnology–and access to improved healthcare. This project is advancing both.”

Many of the growth organizations moving into the OneNKY Center positively commented on the project. OneNKY Alliance President and CEO Karen Finan commended the efforts of the people and organizations who worked behind the scenes on the project.

“Having initiated this coalition of dedicated people and organizations, in partnership with the Catalytic Fund, working toward building a more meaningful future for our community was a major priority for the OneNKY Alliance and was simply exhilarating,” Finan said. “This project has been an important initiative for many key Northern Kentucky organizations over the past four years and now, we cannot wait to see what happens next.”

The Catalytic Fund CEO and President Jeanne Schroer called the building’s location “ideal.”

“It will be a signature building at the front door to Northern Kentucky,” said Schroer. “It will complement all the new development in the Roebling Point neighborhood while serving as a catalyst for exciting new developments along the riverfront and throughout the region.”

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