Covington, Washington

May 30, 2024

Covington, Washington

A City Loved by Its Residents

 

Providing a lifestyle second to none with a stunning natural backdrop to savor

“We’re a fun city.” That’s what Regan Bolli, City Manager, tells us about the beloved  City of Covington.

In the past two decades, this charming city has seen tremendous growth, evolving from a quaint city into a prominent hub in South King County. Surpassing growth and development expectations, the city has made decisions to embrace the newfound growth with open arms.  Embracing growth is not just about expanding infrastructure; it’s about fostering a sense of belonging and unity among its diverse residents. Covington is pulsing with this fun sense of community that can be felt throughout the region.

“We embed fun into everything we do, and that’s an important element of who we are,” Bolli reiterates.

There’s no better way to see this than at Covington’s “Love the Cov” event, which brought out hundreds of people. The focus of this event was to celebrate what residents love most about the city and discuss how to do more of those things. Tons of people proudly wear their “Love the Cov” shirts, branded with the city’s colorful logo. Love the Cov can additionally be felt at the numerous community events, service projects, and food drives throughout the year.

Matching this energy, a couple of years ago, Covington created a city mascot, Karma, the Chameleon. Karma is a colorful character who has become an adored ambassador for the community, showing up to business grand openings and all sorts of city events.

Covington has many other events throughout the year. During the summer, they hold amazing daytime events throughout the city and host music and evening movies at Covington Community Park, which is the city’s first community park.

Covington’s top five activities are walking, picnicking, cooking out, bicycle riding, and social events outdoors, which are supported by the city’s natural and active park spaces and beautiful trails that provide regional connections.

 

Connecting Covington

Although keeping things light at heart, Covington is also indisputably focused on efficiency and productivity. Covington also thrives when it comes to infrastructure development as well.

One current project Bolli highlights involves State Route 516, the main thoroughfare through the middle of town. This important artery operated as a two-lane highway that was overloaded with vehicles moving to and from Covington from surrounding communities. To alleviate congestion, the city prioritized the need to add capacity to this vital transportation link.

The city has widened the road so far, extending east towards the city boundaries, and this widening has created a fish passage as a bonus. At the same time, work is underway on a key trail, known as the “Jenkins Creek Trail” that will provide pedestrian passage under the expanded road, following the path of the stream and linking the north and southern portions of the city.

Covington secured $21 million for this project, which is underway now and planned to be completed by the end of 2024.

Bolli draws attention to Highway 18, which has also been identified as near capacity and in need of new safeguards. Highway 18 bisects Covington and is used as a major route through the region. Upstream of the Covington Highway 18 needs safety and capacity improvement.  Understanding the implications of safe roads for people and commerce, Covington formed a coalition with other communities to highlight the significant need. As a result, the state granted $640 million to widen the road and make it safer. Bolli says that this project will hopefully get started by 2025.

Putting these two projects together represents another effort called the Covington Connector project, which is a plan to connect State Route 516 to Highway 18. This will add a second connection point in the community and should cost between $45 and $60 million. The first and second phases of this project are coming to a close, and Bolli outlines that they’re planning to finish the whole Covington Connector project by the end of 2025.

Another priority when it comes to infrastructure projects remains to maintain the capacity for water and sewage. The city works very closely with the Covington Water District and the Soos Creek Water and Sewer District, which provide water and sewage services to the community. This supportive partnership helps keep these utilities afloat.

Residential focus is also top of the mind for the city and demonstrated by a significant project in the works entitled Covington Commons. Last year, the city was granted land use entitlements and is now getting closer to its goal of securing the required construction permits.

Another notable development in the pipeline, Lakepointe, will add up to 1,700 residential units, in addition to a significant degree (up to 1.3 million square feet) of commercial space. This Housing project is being developed on an existing rock quarry, and the heavy groundwork is being done now.

There are also a few smaller-scale redevelopments planned along Wax Road and throughout the downtown area. All of these efforts will contribute to the goal of providing more attainable, affordable, and multi-family home options, reflecting the city’s recognition and direct efforts to provide housing options as the city continues to embrace growth.

Business Development That Sells Itself

“Covington is a pretty strong place to do business,” exclaims Bolli.

What he’s alluding to is the fact that the city doesn’t need to sell itself much to fill space. This is due to the substantial interest entities are showing toward the city’ potential, as well as the number of commercial brokers that have worked in the community for decades.

“We have some property owners that are just exceptional,” Bolli tells us. “They truly do care about the community and filling spaces with business that can create synergy and do things right in the area.”

Bolli notes that there exist two big manufacturing warehouses that have been granted permits to build in the general commercial zone, which lies just south of the town center. Those developers are looking for tenants to fill those spaces, although it sounds like they won’t have a hard time doing so. This will be an exciting reuse of space that is currently underutilized.

Business development in Covington is happening naturally, with smaller businesses consistently continuing to move in. Illustrating this growth, the city just welcomed a Michaels craft store, and a Chipotle will be opening soon.

The city partners closely with the Covington Chamber of Commerce, and this partnership spawned a joint venture called the Covington Economic Development Council (CEDC). Formed in 2002, CEDC started as an initiative to help existing businesses “survive and thrive”. Today, it’s so successful that it helps bring awareness not just to existing businesses, but to new ones as well.

Last year, CEDC created a program called Business2Business (B2B) which is focused on providing targeted, specific, personalized support to businesses throughout the community. There are currently ten CEDC members, and each one is assigned a business zone that they are responsible for supporting. Members visit businesses in their assigned zones several times per year to discuss their unique needs and how the city can better support them.

Commitment to Safety

A direct benefit of the Business 2 Business program is that the city receives meaningful feedback on how to improve the community.

One finding that’s come out of this feedback is the collective desire to improve public safety. The costs surrounding public safety have skyrocketed, and someone needs to pay for this. So, the council made this a priority and brainstormed different approaches to help fund more public safety measures. They surveyed community businesses and got an incredible return rate, which is a testament to the relationships that the council has fostered with these businesses.

The result of this survey was that businesses would stand behind an added business and occupation tax to help fund public safety, which everyone is committed to. This new tax kicks in this summer and new measures will begin to be put in place.

In the meantime, another initiative has been implementing the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) approach. CPTED strategies aim to reduce crime by deterring the decisions that lead to criminal acts and drawing on a sense of community to minimize the fear of crime.

Police officers in Covington have all been trained on CPTED principles and businesses are encouraged to do the same. There are great resources to help businesses with this, such as a great website that explains it in detail. Plus, officers visit owners and property managers to teach them specific techniques to reduce their potential for crime. Statistics have shown that crime has been reduced on the properties that have embraced CPTED, which is just remarkable.

Bringing It All Together

All of these initiatives, from infrastructure projects to business development, to public safety improvements, and more, come together in a way that the whole community can feel. That’s because, amid all the action, the city and its fantastic leadership continue to focus on bringing people together; making Covington a community for all.

One way this is seen is with Ready, Set, Play, a popular initiative held every summer for elementary school-aged kids. Businesses will sponsor a “brag badge”, and each badge is associated with an activity, such as “go hiking” “ride a bike” or “brush your teeth,” and so on. The hospital sponsors lanyards that display these badges, and hundreds of them are passed out.

Covington businesses see a substantial increase in foot traffic through Ready, Set, Play, so they put on specials all summer to enhance the experience for visitors.

It’s this wonderful community collaboration that truly makes Covington a unique city. This is felt by people in surrounding areas and explains why people are flocking there.

The city continues to show that they are able and happy to keep up with this influx.

As Salina Lyons, Community Development Director, puts it, “Growth can seem very overwhelming for people.”

Despite this, it’s clear that Covington has embraced newcomers with wide open arms.

“We love the Cov so much, so why wouldn’t we want folks to come in and also enjoy it?” Lyons says. “Why wouldn’t we want to share the love with other people?”

Jeff Wagner, Mayor of Covington, couldn’t agree more.

Wagner proudly tells us, “When we have anything that goes on in Covington, we have a council that shows up; we have staff that shows up; we have commission volunteers that show up. We have residents and businesses that all want to participate and join together.”

“It’s exciting. And everybody just wants to be a part of it,” Wagner concludes.

This is a city that embodies togetherness, all while embracing change and continuously working to make their beloved community better and better each year.

AT A GLANCE

Covington, WA

What: A rapidly growing, community-oriented city in southern King County, WA.

Where: The city is surrounded by Kent to the west, Auburn to the southwest, and Maple Valley to the east.

Website: https://www.covingtonwa.gov/

PREFERRED VENDORS

Valley Medical Center – www.valleymed.org

At Valley, caring for our community like family is our mission. Our 341-bed hospital and 50+ primary, urgent and specialty care clinics throughout SE King County offer surgical services, cancer treatment, neuroscience & stroke, joint & spine, ER & level 3 trauma, childbirth & NICU, heart & vascular and much more.

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