In the mayors most recent budget proposal for the 2007-2008 fiscal year, he has proposed dropping 1 million dollars in city funds (as well as some bonds) to secure 3 parcels of the block, equaling 40 percent, and "banking" them for future use. The other 60 percent of the block is owned by Midtown Enterprises and is being used as Skip's Parking Lot.
Currently, the city expects to secure their 40 percent of the block while negotiating with Midtown to sell their property to another developer and develop the whole block in one piece. Midtown has confirmed negotiations for their land is currently underway, and have said that if things progress at the current rate, the land deal could be finished in as soon as 6 weeks.
The effort to secure the Water Company site by the city is the first project for a newly proposed initiative called IDEAL - Investing in Downtown for the Economic Advancement of Louisville. The mayor is hoping this will be the first of many acquisitions by the city of underutilised properties in the central core. The city will then negotiate with developers to fill in the "missing teeth" along some of downtown's streetscapes. This program will give the city much more say over how and when downtown properties are developed.
In the meantime, the city is concentrating it's efforts on this huge barren wasteland in the middle of the core. Mayor Abramson expects this project to be the retail spark the core has been waiting for since the revitalization began in the late 1990's. Negotiations are already underway with national and local tenants for the mystery retail project - but the mayor did recently visit Las Vegas to woo large national retailers to locate in Louisville, and you have to expect he talked to many of them about this downtown project.
Despite the secret nature of the negotiations between the city and developers, the Cordish Company has previously expressed interest in expanding to Water Company site and building a new retail development there. Their Fourth Street Live concept is a much more entertainment based venue, and this sort of project would give them another opportunity to showcase their talents and pull the strings with their many corporate relationships. Cordish has on multiple occasions said that Louisville has gone way beyond their expectations and they've been trying to assemble land along Fourth Street for a phase 2, but property owners have not been willing to sell at a reasonable price. Cordish in February of this year expressed interest in the Starks Building, and converting the first floor into restaurants and retail, but nothing has since been announced. The Starks is between Fourth Street Live and the Water Company block.
One can never be sure of a development until the steel is actually rising from the ground - so you have to sit back and see what happens with it all. However, this could be one of the crowning acheivements for downtown development. Here's to hoping they do it up right.