Program aims to reduce costs for restoring buildings


COVINGTON — Covington is in part known for being a city that is over 200 years old, and officials said almost half of its housing stock predates the 1940s. That is why the city’s effort to open a restoration trade school for historic buildings could be transformative for the area.

The Covington Restoration Trade School would target vulnerable, marginalized locals in need of work with opportunities to learn how to repair and preserve historic homes. Students would be educated in how to execute certain trades like masonry, electric and plumbing with special, necessary accommodations for older properties. Meanwhile, homeowners who cannot afford to restore their historic homes can have students work on them at a reduced cost.

“This idea has been around for a long time,” said Christopher Myers, who works for Covington’s Department of Development Community Services. “We’ve suffered from a lack of skilled tradespeople who can do the work that these buildings need and some of the problems that we’re trying to address. The challenges that we’re trying to address include un- and underemployment, access to opportunities.”

In addition to growing Covington’s skilled workforce, the program is also aimed at boosting investment in historic properties by lowering costs and bolstering new restoration businesses. Though organizers will encourage locals from diverse backgrounds to enroll, Myers says the school will prioritize applicants who are Covington residents of color, especially women, as well as veterans and high school students.

The city is still in the early stages of planning the launch for the school, outlining costs and seeking out partners to fund the program’s operations. Their goal is to open the school in May. One partner already signed on is the Building Industry Association of Northern Kentucky (BIA). Through the partnership, BIA will supply Covington’s trade school with space at its Enzweiler Building Institute in Erlanger where students will have access to equipment and instructors. The former Colonial Inn on Madison Avenue in Covington is also slated to be a laboratory for students once the school opens.

“We’re really excited to see what comes of this,” Myers said. “The opportunity is incredible. The need is huge. That’s what the data is telling us. So as we continue to build partnerships and piece this together to see how it could work, we just want to keep the dialogue open.”

Monique John covers gentrification for WCPO 9. She is part of our Report For America donor-supported journalism program. Read more about RFA here.

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