Formerly home to a liquor store and title pawn shop, The Exchange on U.S. Highway 278 is in the process of a transformation into an upscale shopping center which will house among other businesses an Italian restaurant.
"Our intention is to completely upgrade the property, to make it a very upscale retail center and to be something that Covington will be proud of and that we will be proud of as owners as well," said The Exchange owner Sam B. Hay III.
Hay, the former CEO of Main Street Bank before it was sold to BB&T, said he and his family decided to renovate the 25-year-old property to maximize their return on their investment and to improve Covington's downtown.
"It's been a major lipstick and rouge operation," said Steve Kapp, president of Sunbelt Builders, the company handling the renovations. "This renovation project should and is designed to attract better businesses to that end of [U.S. Highway] 278."
Renovations on The Exchange are expected to be completed by mid-March after which time tenants will begin interior improvements of their own. Kapp said heavy construction on The Exchange began a month ago.
"We are hopeful to be able to have people open for business just as quickly as they get their interior improvements finished," Hay said.
One of the biggest improvements to the shopping center is the addition of a clock tower at its western end. Other improvements include a redesign of the parking lot, the addition of landscaping, columns, parking lot lighting, recessed panels for the display of business names, brick and stucco fronts and new storefront windows and doors.
Hay said at least one tenant is definitely in place to move into The Exchange, an upscale nail salon called Lilly Nails.
"This is a person who has been in the business for most of her career and has operated salons in other east metro markets," Hay said. "It will be a very upscale nail salon."
Hay said he is also in serious negotiations with an independently owned Italian restaurant to move into the new clock tower space at The Exchange.
Counting the nail salon and Italian restaurant there will be five businesses at The Exchange.
Hay said there is room for a second restaurant at the other end of the shopping center.
"We are in conversation with a couple of other restaurants which are possibilities," Hay said, adding, "We're still working on our site plan to finalize parking spaces to be able to accommodate restaurants. They would have the largest need for parking spaces."
The remaining three business spaces range in size from 1,500 square feet to 3,000 square feet Hay said.
"We think that creating an upscale property in Covington is a significant statement about our belief in the future growth and vitality of Covington, particularly in the nucleus of Covington," Hay said.