The Forgotten Neighborhood in the Sky
When I started looking for a storefront for us to purchase in Covington, I still had a day job. So, I walked this city’s neighborhoods in the early morning before work, or after our kids went to bed.
Searching for real estate at odd times taught me a couple things.
1. City neighborhoods are different in the evenings. Places that are quiet in the day are absolutely bonkers in the evening when people are home from work and relaxing on the porches, sidewalks and city parks. It’s energizing and very unlike the suburbs.
2. When the sun sets, and the interior lights flick on, you can see how cities have been ruined. And you can see their almost unlimited potential.
I first realized this when I walked up Madison Avenue – the main street in Covington – after dark. All the storefronts were lit up. But the second, third, fourth and fifth floors of all the buildings were completely dark. In fact, if you didn’t know that you were walking among tall buildings, the lights could trick you into thinking you were walking in a low-rise suburban shopping center.
When I walked the same streets the next morning, I began looking at the buildings a bit differently. I started peering above the ground floors and into the windows above. What was behind the glass? Living space? Storage? A dark void?
I got my answer a few weeks later. A real estate agent wanted to show me a new development on Scott Boulevard. They were transforming an old building into a series of condos, and they would be willing to build one unit to suit Lost Art Press, with a ground floor storefront and living space above. Price, about $350,000 when completely finished. With parking.
Would we be interested?
That was more than we could afford at the time, but I desperately wanted to see the inside of the building. So I took my youngest daughter, Katherine, with me after school one day, and we met the agent at the back door of the building.
Very little new work had been done on the structure. So Katherine and I explored this building – about 20,000 square feet of it. It was like using a time machine. There were apartments with original fixtures, mantles, moldings and architectural details. Sure, the plaster wasn’t perfect, but the units weren’t in bad shape. (In fact, most were in better shape than the four old buildings Lucy and I have rehabbed.)
One-half of the structure had been offices. And again, wow. It was like walking onto a movie set from the 1930s. There were endless hallways with offices behind frosted glass. All the architectural details were undisturbed. It was just a little sloppy and dusty. Old electric and plumbing.
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