I say we have great merchants and eateries in Covington. But I would add what is needed is more variety in both areas as well as more opportunities for entertainment. The answer to these dreams will be found in both the new development, Covington Town Center as well as new places opening in other parts of our city.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t look forward to joining the traffic on I-20. Anytime I have to go to somewhere else to find what I need or to go to a movie, I think wouldn’t it be nice if we had that in Covington. The good news is the way has been cleared for the development of the Covington Town Center on Alcoy Road at City Pond Road. And there will be much more shopping, and restaurants as well as hopefully a movie theater.
A few months ago it appeared that this project might be just another dream. The first name for the proposal as “The Kitchen Sink “named for the president of the company developing the project, Harry Kitchen. But when there were some bumps in the road it was placed on “the might have been” shelf. But now it is back strong! While at first there had been some resistance on the City Council, it was unanimous this time when the vote on a change in zoning was needed. Very fittingly the name for the project had become “Phoenix”. Just as the mythical bird arose from the ashes so did this dream for many of our citizens came back to life.
Some expressed concern as to what this might mean to the existing businesses in our area. Remember the old proverb, “Rising Waters Lift All Ships”. The expectation that the additional people attracted to Covington by the new Covington Town Center will mean more business for those already here. This would happen in at least two ways. They would come to the Center and stop at other locations for dining or shopping. And the increase in employment would mean more customers for all businesses. It is projected that nearly 2000 jobs will be created with a pay role of over $125 million.
Two examples of improvements already seen in our community is what is happening around the Square and along Highway 278. The Square as seen ten new businesses open in the last few years plus additional hours that the shops are open. Along 278 there is forming a Community Improvement District. This is where businesses in the area join together to help draw more to that area. There will be improved signage making Exist 90 the gateway to Covington. New businesses are already being attracted to this area as well.
One hope for possibility of the new Center is a movie theater for our community. Mayor Ronnie Johnston put it well when he said, “Since we are the Hollywood of the South, we should have a theater to see the movies.” According the Conceptual Master Plan there wi be ll space for multi-screen complex which will seat 900 patrons. I haven’t seen the exact breakdown, but this capacity will mean numerous choices for those who want to “go to the movies.”
There will be space for several restaurants as well as over 750,000 square feet for retail space. This will allow several major relators to open in Covington. There will be space for two hotels with about 210 hotel rooms. One of these is expected to be extended stay to help support local industries.
We should start hearing who is coming in about sixteen months when it is projected that the grading will be finished on the nearly 180 acers involved. The developer, the Foxfield Company, is putting over twelve million dollars in this initial work.
The master plan will allow good traffic flow as well as parking. Unlike what one often experiences when shopping in the areas along I 20 in Conyers, it will be easy to go from one store to another. Not having to go back through traffic lights to go from one area to another.
The commitment that the developer made, as the Council approved the zoning change required, is that care will be taken to reflect what the market will bear in Covington. It will be great to stay closer to home as we shop, eat out, and go to the movies.
A project this large will take time. But it is hoped that the first stores will be opening about the same time as the widening of Highway 142 is finished in three years.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.