Covington officials want the public to have a role in revitalizing the downtown.

Thursday, a “Downtown Community Summit” was held at Covington High School with an estimated 50 people in attendance.

Persons in attendance met in small groups to provide thoughts and suggestions for bringing the downtown area back to life. It’s designated as a historic district.

But the downtown has lost most of its retail base and dining establishments.   Empty storefronts line Main Street and adjacent streets. Some of the vacant buildings are in need of repair.   

“This is an opportunity for us to do some brainstorming together and look at the Olde Town Historic District of Covington and see what kind of changes we need to make and how we can improve things,” Mayor Tom Sibold said.

The city is being assisted by Head Down Strategies, a Richmond-based firm that provides planning and economic development services to governments and the private sector.

Shannon Heady, the managing principle of Head Down Strategies, said the goal is to create a model that will bring “concrete actions and positive change” to downtown.

“We want to  create a comprehensive plan for downtown that creates a vision for success. We want to be visionary and forward-thinking for the community,” she said.

However, she stressed that the plan has to be realistic to work.

“We can all come up with great ideas, but if we can’t put them into action, they’re not going to be helpful for Covington,” Heady said.

The city has already taken preliminary steps toward developing the plan. In February, residents were urged to provide ideas  for a planning grant the city received from the state.

In addition,  more than 250 people participated in an online survey.

Head Down Strategies’ team has met with city officials and business leaders. They have also participated  in a walking tour of the downtown.

“We want to put Covington in a strong position with this plan so you can actually seek funding sources,” Heady said.

Jill Vaughan, the owner of JLV Communications in Richmond, said the planning process will focus on the positive strengths of Covington and the surrounding community.

“We want to know about the strengths and the experiences that give life to downtown Covington,” she said.

The theme of the planning process is: “The city of Covington is a vibrant, active, downtown community in which people are proud to live, work, play and visit.” 

Covington’s retail base shifted to the Jamison Commerce Center in 1998. The hub of the commerce center is a Walmart supercenter.

Shannon Heady, standing right, managing principal of Head Down Strategies, leads a discussion during a Downtown Community Summit Thursday evening at Covington High School. Participants included, seated clockwise from left, Kathy Carson, Carolyn Jones, Wayne Lamb, Cindy Bryant and Marie Fitzpatrick. (Gavin Dressler Photo)