Gateway in Covington 'under review'

Scott Wartman, and James Pilcher
Gateway's $80 million master plan for its urban campus would have included renovations to eight buildings in six square blocks in downtown Covington.

The future of Gateway Community and Technical College's Urban Campus in Covington is "under review."

Gateway spokeswoman Michelle Sjogren said they aren't closing any buildings at this time, but all facility use is being reviewed, including the former Two Rivers Middle School on Scott Street.

She couldn't say what Gateway is planning, why they're reconsidering building use and whether they will close any buildings in Covington.

Speculation has spread after the topic of facilities came up at a Gateway board meeting on Thursday. The city of Covington has pinned hopes on the $80 million Gateway Urban Campus expansion to breathe life into its downtown.

Leaders told The Enquirer they still see a bright future for Gateway in Covington. It just might look a little different than originally planned.

Sjogren said Gateway will try to find the "most effective use" for its properties. Gateway will look at all its facilities in Northern Kentucky, not just Covington, Sjogren said.

"There is no specific proposal at this time," Sjogren said. "Everything is under review."

Gateway has moved 36 classes from the Two Rivers building on Scott Boulevard a block west to the Technology, Innovation and Enterprise building on Madison Avenue, according to an email sent to all faculty from professor Michelle Deeley. Gateway still has 58 classes operating in Two Rivers and has no plans of stopping activity there, Sjogren said.

Sjogren couldn't say why they moved the classes.

The moves have nothing to do with the high number of student loan defaults among Gateway students, she said. The rate has dipped below 30 percent. That means the federal government won't sanction Gateway and the college's students can continue to receive financial aid, Interim Gateway President Keith Bird wrote in a Thursday email to employees.

"Further reductions may follow," Bird wrote.

Bird was unavailable for comment.

Covington officials said there's nothing to fear. Gateway contacted the city Friday to allay any concerns and to reassure the school will stay in Covington, said City Manager Larry Klein.

Klein said Gateway told city officials they are to make sure its curriculum matches the facilities. What exactly that will mean wasn't clear, he said.

"There is no concern," Klein said. "The state's commitment to the urban areas is absolute."

Gateway has yet to use all the property it owns in Covington. The college bought several properties in 2012, including a Methodist Church on Greenup Street and the Point Pavilion reception hall on Scott Street. Both properties remain undeveloped.

Gateway and its parent organization, Kentucky Community and Technical College, own nine properties in Covington, according to Kenton County Property Valuation Administrator records.

The state in December gave the city $1 million to transform Electric Alley in the middle of Gateway's Covington campus into a pedestrian-and-bicycle path.

Mayor Sherry Carran said it's not a new idea that Gateway would tweak its original plans for the urban campus. Previous president Ed Hughes had said the same before he left, she said.

"When you're building a new home, you seldom go with the first plan," Carran said. "There are always tweaks made. I don't see this as any different."