COVINGTON, Ky. — At various times during its 150-plus years, the somewhat hidden three-story brick building at 422 Madison Avenue has housed a soft drink factory, a steam dye company and the African-American Odd Fellows fraternal organization.
But now “the Pickle Factory” — the tenant for which it’s best known — is joining the growing list of long-vacant historic downtown structures getting a facelift and an exciting new life.
Construction work is halfway completed on the $1.9 million project, which includes a top-to-bottom renovation of the 7,500 s.f. of space that will transform its ground floor into commercial space and its upper floors into Airbnb units.
The Covington Board of Commissioners will vote June 9 on helping that facelift along — listed on the commission’s consent agenda is a request for a $14,500 grant to help pay for running water supply lines to the building.
Covington Economic Development Director Tom West told the commission that the investment is a perfect use of the city’s tax-increment financing fund — which is used to fund public infrastructure — and is projected to pay for itself within two years.
“There will be a tangible return on investment for taxpayers, as these TIF funds will leverage more private investment and new jobs in another historic building that has been vacant for decades,” West said. “We refer to the old Pickle Factory as a hidden gem, ‘hidden’ because very few people know it’s even there.”
While the building has a Madison Avenue address, it sits at the intersection of Tobacco and Electric alleys behind the building that houses the Chops, Cheese & Chives butcher and market.
The Covington Economic Development Authority on Thursday voted to recommend approval of the grant to the board of commissioners.
The team developing the Pickle Factory is developer Tony Milburn, Manning Construction and WorK Architecture + Design.
“The history of this building is just awesome — it’s been so many things,” Milburn said. “It’s just a wonderful example of an 1870s-style industrial building, and it’s had a rough life. But its scars are what make it beautiful.”
Milburn said he hoped to have the first floor finished by summer’s end and the Airbnb rentals ready in the fall. Construction work has been underway for about six months, and he said he acquired it in the nick of time.
“It’s been taking on water for decades, and the floors were sagging,” he said. “Structurally we had to do a lot to it.”
West noted that the project aligns with the citywide strategy written by Garner Economics of Atlanta for Covington last year. One of the strategic plan’s top recommendations was to develop new real estate office product necessary to attract companies within the “All Things Office” target.
Once fully leased, the city estimated that the building will generate $13,000 a year in payroll tax revenue.