Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cordish Plans New “Center City”

Cordish has done it again. And wow.

The Baltimore-based developer of Fourth Street Live has announced plans for a new 250 million dollar mixed-use development in the heart of downtown. It will encompass the entire Water Company block, and include a renovated Louisville Gardens, and other assorted properties on six separate city blocks. In a word, this is HUGE.

The old Water Company will be the main focus of this development. At the site, Cordish has preliminary plans for buildings equaling over 500,000 square feet of space with a mix of uses. The block will be transformed into a retail hub/entertainment area/neighborhood. The project will consist mainly of building flush with the street with retail and dining options along the first level and residential or office space above it. There will also be a residential mid-rise of at least 15 stories. Officials have declined to mention exactly how many residential units will be included, but did say there would be at least “several hundred”.

In the new development, currently called Center City, Cordish plans to bring in small and medium sized national tenants, including restaurants, retail stores, and a large multiplex theatre. The company has not yet signed any tenants for the project, but they did say that national chains were responding favorably in negotiations. Cordish has hinted, however, that a major department store might not be a part of the final mix.

The other main component of this sweeping project is the renovation of the aging Louisville Gardens. The company plans to revive the space as an arena for a new minor league hockey team, and as a venue for smaller concerts and shows. The Gardens were built in early 20th century, and the building hasn’t been extensively renovated in years.

The price tag for the entire project is estimated at 250 million dollars, which will be completely fronted by Cordish. However, there is a catch. For the project to be built the city has been asked to approve a TIF district covering the area of the new developments and rebating up to 80 percent of future tax growth for 30 years to improve public infrastructure. The TIF dollars would be rebated back to Cordish for their work in rebuilding public amenities, such as streets, alleys, new lighting and streetscapes, and new parking decks. The rebate would be 130 million dollars over the life of the TIF.

The Metro Council will receive the official request for the TIF district on Thursday, and it is expected to breeze through the council. It will also have to be approved by state officials in Frankfort, which have historically rubberstamped municipal decisions in this type of situation. If the TIF district is passed without a hitch construction will begin in 2008.

Center City, if completed, will cost nearly 4 times that of nearby Fourth Street Live, and will dwarf it in scope. Cordish has long tried build on to their wildly successful project in Louisville, only for things to usually fall through. In 2005 they planned a phase two to Fourth Street Live in the former JCPenney building, only for other building owners to refuse selling their properties. Earlier this year Cordish reached a deal with the owners of the Starks Building to expand their center, but it will only add a few thousand feet of space.

The project is especially exciting for Louisville because it is the culmination of years of renewal in the core. The city has longed for a major retail destination that can serve the burgeoning urban population and provide conventioneers and other out-of-town guest a place to drop their money and spend their time. It has not been a secret that city officials have been pushing and kneading developers to build this sort of showcase project – and that they would not consider the downtown rebirth successful until this was done.

I think downtown Louisville may have finally arrived.

More in Store for Downtown - Sunday, August 19

Monday, August 20, 2007

HOK Releases Arena Design

The New Louisville Arena

Monday, August 13, 2007

Newsbrief: Phillip Morris Finally Coming Down

Mayor Abramson and Representative Yarmuth were on hand this morning to mark the beginning of a major new development in West Louisville. The old Phillip Morris Cigarette plant at Broadway and 18th began demolition this morning at 10:30am. Fourteen buildings are being demolished at the site, which is slated for a major new retail and residential project.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Arena Rendering?!?

MurphysLAw over at SkyscraperCity posted this "leaked" rendering of the Louisville Arena. I wonder if this is our final product...we'll have to wait for the official unveiling.

Haymarket Could See 300 Million Dollar Development

The University of Louisville took two huge leaps forward last week in their bid to build a state of the art urban medical research park in downtown. Officials at UofL announced they were diving head first into plans to convert two blocks on the eastern fringe of downtown into a bustling research and business incubator with the help of Maryland based developer Wexford Science + Technology. Estimates put the full build-out of the project at 300 million dollars.

The Haymarket has been on hold for several years, and it has only been in the last few months that the university has revived the project. Current plans call for over 1 million square feet of space in several mid-rise buildings, but those numbers are not yet finalized. The center will offer research space to university scientists and space for small medical start-up companies that will collaborate with researchers.

UofL owns the majority of the land needed for the project, but is now entering into negotiations for the final few parcels that remain. All other land owners have expressed their willingness to sell their land quickly, and the James Graham Brown Foundations will be picking up the tab for the school.

Besides just making the plans, the university has also been working behind the scenes to get the needed funding mechanisms in place. On Monday city and state officials announced plans to create a TIF district in the Louisville Medical District to help fund 300 million dollars in public infrastructure. Several parking garages will be constructed, along with public green spaces and other improvements to the area. In addition to the TIF funding, the State of Kentucky has said it would spend 3 million dollars to help lure and retain businesses inside the new Haymarket medical park.
State officials estimate that the Haymarket project will generate up to 2.5 billion dollars in direct and spin-off investments and will lead to an increase of nearly 9,000 jobs, only 2,200 of which will be in the Haymarket site itself. State officials are expecting that UofL will make good on their plans to not only develop the Haymarket site, but to continue improving their offerings in the medical district.

The Louisville Metro Council is expected to approve the TIF funding this month making the Haymarket project the second “signature” project in Louisville that is capable of receiving the increased tax revenue under new Kentucky regulations.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Jeffersonville Approves Annexation

The city of Jeffersonville, Indiana has approved a sweeping annexation plan that will bring in 9,000 new residents and increase its area by 7,800 acres. Jeffersonville officials have been studying and pushing for this annexation for well over a year, and last nights vote was the final needed top make it all official. City leaders said this annexation is in preparation of expected growth in eastern Clark County after the East End Bridge is completed.

After the annexation is complete on January 1, 2008, Jeffersonville will have a set time period to equalize services between the old city and the new lands. Police service will have to be beefed up, a new firehouse is being considered, and the new area will be subject to more intense zoning and drainage laws.

Annexation, though, has been quite controversial. With annexation, the new residents will be subject to city taxes, and some residents will be forced to pay up to 2,800 dollars to hook-up to the city sewers. Annexation could not be legally opposed, however, because of a cleverly written clause that nearly all the homeowners in the area signed when they purchased their homes and hooked up to the city sewers. By signing the contract they forfeited their rights to oppose a future annexation by Jeffersonville, giving the city ample opportunity to take the land when they wanted it.

The newly annexed area will increase the city’s tax base by over 40 percent, but it will be a short-term drag on city finances. City taxes will not be levied in the new area until 2009, but Jeffersonville has a legal obligation to provide services to the expanded area in 2008.

Friday, August 03, 2007

River City News Briefs

PharMerica is Open for Business
The deal creating Louisville’s newest corporate citizen, PharMerica, closed earlier this week and the stock was traded on the NYSE for the first time. The new company was formed through the union of the pharmacy divisions of Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare and Florida-based Amerisource Bergen. The company is expected to have revenue is excess of 2 billion dollars, placing it on the Fortune 1000 list.

New Ice House Lofts?
The former Arctic Ice building on Main in downtown Louisville may finally be brought back to life. The developer of Byck’s Lofts on Fourth Street has announced plans for this newest conversion on his website, and the development is listed on the Downtown Housing Tour 2007 website. The building will feature heavy cork insulation, exposed brick, and a great location in the heart of the East Main residential corridor.

Arena Authority Sets Date for Design Unveiling
Jim Host expects to reveal the arena exterior design at a special meeting of the Arena Authority on August 20th. Representatives from HOK Sport will be on hand to show the authority and the public their plans for the new downtown centerpiece.

Louisville Housing Authority Plans 3.5 Million Dollar Project
The city plans to construct a 3 story retail and apartment development at the corner of Broadway and Shelby in Phoenix Hill to help fill a need for new subsidized housing units. The project will house people from several income brackets. A third of the project will be for subsidized housing, a third will be public housing, and a third will be market-rate. Funding for the project comes from money secured for the nearby Liberty Green renewal.

FBI Moving to the Suburbs
The FBI Headquarters in Louisville will soon be leaving the downtown core for a new building off Blankenbaker Parkway. The new building will provide the FBI will more room and better security. The FBI had been housed downtown since the 1930’s.