Mission accomplished: Renaissance Covington bids farewell after 20 years of community building initiatives

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

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Decades ago, dilapidated or vacant buildings within Covington’s central business district were a normality. Due to the work of nonprofits like Renaissance Covington, the central business district is now thriving, serving as a symbolic reminder of the city’s drastic turnaround.

Now after nearly 20 years of continuous community investment, the leadership at Renaissance Covington has finally declared “mission accomplished.” 

The nonprofit will be officially shutting down in February and will cease operating its signature program, the Covington Farmers Market. Covington-based nonprofit, The Center for Great Neighborhoods, will take over farmers market operations going forward. Renaissance Covington has operated the farmers market since 2010.

“Setting up the Covington Farmers Market for success and longevity has been a top priority for our board members,” said Tori Luckenbach, President of Renaissance Covington Board of Directors. “We’re grateful to leave the market in good hands at The Center for Great Neighborhoods.”

Renaissance Covington’s surplus funds will be donated to The Center for Great Neighborhoods, with the money supporting the farmers market’s transition between the two organizations.

On Tuesday, Executive Director Nick Wade resigned from his post, announcing he accepted a new position on the ArtsWave campaign management team. He served in the role since March 2019. Wade told LINK nky it was the right time to step away, citing that he felt as though the organization had accomplished what it set out to do: amplify the vibrancy of downtown Covington.

“I definitely think that Renaissance Covington has been instrumental in getting Covington to this point,” Wade said. “When I’m thinking about the early days of our work here, Covington was a very different place. We were riddled with vacant properties. Through our work, we’ve been able to help fill the vacant properties in Covington and helped bring incredible new businesses to the city.”

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Founded in 2003, Renaissance Covington’s purpose was to serve as a catalyst for city beautification, investment and small business advocacy. In order to achieve this, the nonprofit hosted various community engagement events and initiatives.

“There wasn’t a lot of activity in downtown Covington,” said Jim Guthrie, a former Renaissance Covington Board Chair. “The stuff we were doing then was really bringing a lot of focus to the downtown core before you had businesses like Braxton Brewing of Covington Yard. I think our organization was a precursor to that sort of thing by showing people that fun things could happen downtown.”

Renaissance Covington is responsible for some of the city’s most recognizable events, public art installations and entrepreneurial programs. Mortar Covington, Covington Night Market, Covington Christkindlmarkt were all initiates of Renaissance Covington. Their Pike Street Pop Up shop has birthed new small businesses. One of which, Peachy and Vintage, is now prominently featured in a storefront along Madison Avenue.

In 2022, their beautification projects breathed new life into previously baron or aesthetically run down areas. A new paint job was given to the Pike and Russell Street underpass. In Innovation Alley, their mural gallery is viewed by pedestrians on a daily basis.

The Innovation Alley mural wall, with famous Covingtonians as the featured subjects. Photo by Kenton Hornbeck | LINK nky

Their most famous initiative was perhaps the Running of the Goats, which shoved Covington into the national media spotlight when several of the goats escaped, running freely across the city. The goats were eventually corralled by a group of volunteers and Covington police officers. As the old adage goes, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

“That was the pinnacle of Renaissance Covington,” said Guthrie. “Luckily, it was very, very fortunate that no people or animals were seriously injured but it was just so comical in how it ended up.”

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In Wade’s opinion, the legacy of Renaissance Covington will be how the nonprofit inspired neighborhoods and residents to get involved in the transformation of their communities.

“Through our work at Renaissance Covington, our hundreds of volunteers we’ve worked with for thousands of hours, we’ve really inspired the community to truly take that ownership back,” Wade said. “I think we saw that play out with the city’s vibrancy grants they released, which opened it up to not only nonprofit organizations, but also residents to do resident-led projects in the community.”

Covington’s Quality of Place Grant Program is a competitively awarded program from the city’s economic development department. Essentially, residents, nonprofits and businesses can offer ideas on how to improve the physical appearance of a business or public place. The city allocated $125,000 to the program for the current fiscal year. Applicants can request a grant of $1,000 to $30,000.

The City of Covington released a statement to LINK nky thanking Renaissance Covington for their dedicated service to the community, and for playing a critical role in revitalizing downtown.

“Renaissance Covington’s name was apropos to its mission and its success: Over the past couple of decades, the organization has played a critical role in the revitalization of downtown Covington,” read the statement. “From the Covington Farmers Market to creative uses of public spaces to support of entrepreneurs and artists, RCOV helped create and feed a sense of vitality in The Cov. That’s not just our opinion – as the recipient of the 2017 Great American Main Street Award, Renaissance Covington was named the best in the country for creative place-making.”

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