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Louisville at the crossroads: Dead blocks, pivotal parcels and suspended projects will decide downtown's future

by Terry Boyd

Empty facades waiting for a plan at Whiskey Row. (Click all images to see full size.)

Insider Louisville has had more than one post lately about the dire downtown office vacancy situation, with thousands of jobs moving to the suburbs in what’s looking increasingly like a repeat of the 1980s.

Yesterday, Metro Mayor Greg Fisher announced he’s running for re-election.

In his email to supporters, Fischer took credit – mostly deservedly so – for setting the stage for Louisville to exit the Great Recession.

“Government doesn’t create jobs – but we create the right environment for entrepreneurs and the private sector to do so.”

Fischer also touted his participation in the Ohio River Bridges Project and new libraries, including funding construction of the Southwest regional library in Valley Station.

There were exactly zero references to downtown.

Downtown is at a crossroads for two reasons.

First, KFC Yum! Center is putting a $10 million hole in the city’s budget because the Tax Increment Financing District meant to fund the downtown arena isn’t.

Before the recession, arena proponents sold the idea Louisville could afford the $348 million facility because it in turn would revive downtown investment, generating the tax revenue to pay for the bonds. Yet, the blocks south and east of the arena – an area that was supposed to be in a full-blown renaissance by now – have stalled projects, vacant buildings, blighted blocks and unrealized potential.

Second, downtown office vacancies have – seemingly overnight – risen to 16 percent, the highest vacancy rate since the dark days of 1987. There are at least four large downtown office buildings in foreclosure.

The Meidinger Tower at Fourth and Muhammad Ali, which sold for about $28 million in 2004, was auctioned yesterday by Jefferson Circuit Court for $16.6 million, or a 4o percent discount.

Not an indicator of a healthy downtown.

According to the Courier-Journal, appraisers who valued the Meidinger at $20 million noted downtown office space sits empty as companies shift to newer, cheaper office space in the suburbs. “There is no information available suggesting that any companies needing large office space are considering a move to this community,” the appraisal said.

Which is not exactly a glowing endorsement of Louisville’s economic-development efforts.

A quick drive around the central business district reveals a city with a vital Main Street from NuLu to the Humana building, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, 21C Museum Hotel and all the West Main Street museums and attractions.

But the farther south you go, the more tears appear in the fabric of the city, from a massive number of surface parking lots to completely empty blocks.

Here are the projects we hope Mayor Fischer might assess as he leads the city to new and bolder downtown redevelopment policies.

• Whiskey Row

Just a block east of KFC Yum! Center, it’s hard to believe that Whiskey Row started out six years ago as Iron Quarter, a Todd Blue project. Blue proposed a $48 million project with offices, hotels and restaurants. He purchased a half a block of dilapidated iron facade buildings  in 2007 for $4.7 million. After the Great Recession hit, the developer realized all bets were off, and decided the highest and best use would be a surface parking lot for the nearby KFC Yum! Center.

Without getting out our copy of the “The Ancient History of Louisville” and rehashing the preceding six years, let’s just say Fischer did not cover himself in glory when he announced a February 2011 deal to allow Blue to level the buildings, a deal made just after he was elected. By April that year, a group of investors, including Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, announced they were buying the buildings from Blue for $4.8 million. The Fischer Administration agreed to help stabilize the decaying buildings, investing $100,000 for every $1 million invested by the investment group up to $1.5 million. Brown, Wilson and company announced plans to stabilize the buildings on the way to building a $40 million project. Though it quickly became clear there was no actual “plan.”

Wilson told Wall Street Journal reporter A. D. Pruitt that he and Brown weren’t initially interested in the block because they already have a huge project going in the national expansion of their 21c Museum Hotel project. Since then, 21C has expanded to Cincinnati and Bentonville, Ark., with plans for more hotels in Lexington, Ky., and North Carolina.

In the WSJ story, Wilson confirmed Whiskey Row investors had no master plan, just an idea or two.

Mr. Wilson said they don’t even have a master plan for the site, but are eying a big bourbon distillery that will be part of a “bourbon trail” of six distilleries across the state where tourists can sip different brands of bourbon.

One of IL’s early scoops was reporting in February 2012 that Whiskey Row was in limbo after contractors found weaknesses that made the renovation project financially impractical.

Our sources confirmed a number of the buildings were too far gone to save. As we noted at the time, not good news for all the people who’d already invested millions on the block, including Valle Jones and Bill Weyland, who have something like $20 million in Whiskey Row Lofts on the west end of the block. Not to mention all the restaurant owners. Not to mention the impact on the city’s ability to service the arena debt should the buildings sit empty, a persistent drag on downtown instead of enhancing the surrounding entertainment district.

Back in 2012, an insider told us the majority of members of the investor group were hoping someone would take Whiskey Row off their hands. Since then, very little has happened beyond the demolition of two buildings, with two more stripped to the facades, supported now by iron frames. A few weeks ago, Jones spoke at a Rotary Club of Louisville meeting, saying investors in the project are in discussions with some “very fun and interesting” people in food and whiskey-oriented businesses who could bring entertainment concepts to the site. So, they’re still talking after six years about what to do with this pivotal block.

City Block sits empty just two blocks south of KFC Yum! Center.

City Block/O’Malley’s Corner:

Talk about unintended consequences. From Fourth Street and Muhammad Ali north to Liberty Street, the city gave away a cluster of buildings to Baltimore-based developer The Cordish Cos., a deal that became the Fourth Street Live entertainment district. In turn, Fourth Street live and its cluster of restaurants and bars captured the modest downtown nightlife, killing another full block of bars just two blocks east at Second and Liberty … and three blocks south of KFC Yum! Center. City Block started out as O’Malley’s Corner and Coyote’s, a complex of bars that had been wildly successful dating back to the 1980s country music craze. The clubs closed in 2009, with the club owners owing the two landlords who own the block tens of thousands of dollars. A few bars have come and gone, but the block has mostly remained vacant.

Action Loan building

At Second and Market streets is the headquarters for Gus Goldmith’s real estate, payday loan and pawn shop empire. Goldsmith is a successful businessman, and by his own account one of the wealthiest people in Louisville. But, is a pawnshop the highest and best use of a property so close to KFC Yum! Center and KICC? To his credit, Goldsmith has the building for sale.

• Center City

Center City was – like Iron Quarter – another plan hatched when Louisville was on a pre-Recession real estate adrenaline high. Cordish was going to invest $250 million to redevelop several blocks along Muhammad Ali – from Second to Sixth streets – into stores, restaurants, condos, movie theaters and a hotel. The vacant former Louisville Water Co. headquarters and other abandoned buildings on the block would be replaced by a vibrant entertainment center. Cue to April 5, 2013. Cordish proposes reviving Center City, but this time the plan is basically a hotel-and-grocery combo on the Third Street site, where that cluster of empty buildings still sits. City leaders say Louisville can’t afford to participate unless Cordish is going to shoulder more of the costs. But the alternative is a non-performing asset embarrassingly close to KFC Yum! Center and the Kentucky International Convention Center. Like so much of the area near KFC Yum! Center, a row of large buildings sits abandoned.

Fort Nelson Building

• The Fort Nelson Building

This is yet another project that city officials and company executives announced with great fanfare, only to have it dissipate into the Ohio River fog. New York-based Chatham Imports bought the Fort Nelson Building at Eighth and Main streets back in 2011. There, said Chatham executives, they were going to invest $8 million into the cool but creaky building in order to create an urban bourbon distillery for its Micther’s brands. Chatham closed on the building nine months later, then began renovation and stabilization. But as of earlier this week, that work appears to have stopped. Contractors built a large steel frame on the east wall of the building, closing Eighth Street. If the Michter’s project happens, it could be transformative, with more urban bourbon projects to follow. If not, it will be yet another false start in a city with a long history of false starts.

The original School of Business renderings for Museum Plaza.

Museum Plaza

Just this week, two attorneys announced a tentative agreement with the city, an option through 2015 to acquire and develop the Main Street property where the star-crossed Museum Plaza was to be built. Forgotten, apparently, was an embryonic plan that included a major participation by U of L. About 15 months ago, U of L officials hired Allen Cowen, the former Fund for the Arts CEO. Cowen was charged by U of L Provost Shirley Willihnganz to create the “Center for Creativity,” a center “where the university and the arts community come together.”

As of January, 2012, U of L held a 1-year contract to buy four facades – 615 W. Main through 621 W. Main – part of the Museum Plaza project, which was cancelled in August, 2011. The U of L effort was a holdover from an earlier plan to create “The Center for Graduate and Executive Education,” relocating several programs, including U of L’s Hite Art Institute and the Professional MBA to the Museum Plaza complex. The four building facades were to be incorporated at street level into the larger Museum Plaza skyscraper.

Is the U of L deal still on? Who knows? U of L officials take pride in being accountable to no one. But here’s an interesting link back. Lacy Smith, husband of current Fund for the Arts CEO Barbara Sexton Smith, is one of the two attorneys with the option on the Museum Plaza property. Barbara Sexton Smith replaced Cowen as CEO of the Fund for the Arts.

The Stewart’s Dry Goods Building, aka “Fourth Street Dead.”

• The Stewart’s Dry Goods Building

This may be the most crucial key to a vital downtown. Stewarts Dry Good’s Building, a former luxury department store at Fourth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, was once the center of downtown’s thriving retail sector. Since 2008, the building has sat empty and decaying after the recession extinguished a grandiose $60 million plan to redevelop the building into a hotel. BUT, we’re hearing increasing chatter from hotel executives and city officials that a new project is about to be announced. If nothing happens, it’s hard to image a Renaissance with an empty Stewart’s building and a half empty Meidinger Tower in the heart of downtown.

Still, it’s fun to go back and relive those golden moments when this city was still high on the fumes of the Go-Go 2000s.

We’ll leave you with this Business First article about developer Eric Bachelor’s plans for the Stewart’s building:

The lobby for the Embassy Suites would be on the ground floor and would be surrounded by ornate features, including marble floors, granite countertops and plush couches. The lobby also would have a fireplace and waterfalls, Bachelor said, adding that the renovation will marry the Hilliard Lyons Center’s traditional look, which dates to 1910, with a “cutting-edge” style that travelers might expect to find in Las Vegas or more exotic destinations. The first-floor restaurants would include an upscale steak or seafood concept, a sports bar and a jazz club. Bachelor said he is in talks with companies that would operate the three restaurants, and he hopes to strike deals in the next two months. “I’m talking to some good people,” he said, although he declined to identify any of the potential operators.

Recent Stories from Terry
  • Bryan Grumley

    Despite the delays and lack of a master plan, I feel we owe credit to the investors that saved Whiskey Row from becoming another parking lot… First things first.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.grumley Bryan Grumley

    Despite the delays and lack of a master plan, I feel we owe credit to the investors that saved Whiskey Row from becoming another parking lot… First things first.

  • Nick Roberts

    Is anyone really surprised that the YUM Center is an albatross around our necks? In the entire history of cities underwriting and funding arenas not one of them has ever been profitable. The only people who make money from them are the developers and their cronies. I repeat not one of them has ever made money for the community that allowed the flim flam men to sell them an arena.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nick.roberts.1614460 Nick Roberts

    Is anyone really surprised that the YUM Center is an albatross around our necks? In the entire history of cities underwriting and funding arenas not one of them has ever been profitable. The only people who make money from them are the developers and their cronies. I repeat not one of them has ever made money for the community that allowed the flim flam men to sell them an arena.

  • Robertok

    Although the financing hasn’t worked as planned, the KFC Yum! Center is a critical addition to our community in general and downtown in particular. Without it, our city core would REALLY be dead. We need to get more dates in there, yes, perhaps an NBA team. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. There needs to be some way to physically link the arena area to 4th Street Live other than old sidewalks, uninviting facades and surface parking lots. The convention center expansion needs to be pushed harder. The part that is most distressing to me is the Cordish story. It seems that the City bows down to their every whim and nobody holds them accountable for their commitments, though we don’t ever seem to get the details of what their commitments are exactly. Cordish has invested a lot of money in our city, but how are citizens to know what they are legally obligated to do? Terry, isn’t that supposed to be public record?

  • Robertok

    Although the financing hasn’t worked as planned, the KFC Yum! Center is a critical addition to our community in general and downtown in particular. Without it, our city core would REALLY be dead. We need to get more dates in there, yes, perhaps an NBA team. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. There needs to be some way to physically link the arena area to 4th Street Live other than old sidewalks, uninviting facades and surface parking lots. The convention center expansion needs to be pushed harder. The part that is most distressing to me is the Cordish story. It seems that the City bows down to their every whim and nobody holds them accountable for their commitments, though we don’t ever seem to get the details of what their commitments are exactly. Cordish has invested a lot of money in our city, but how are citizens to know what they are legally obligated to do? Terry, isn’t that supposed to be public record?

  • Msradell

    The more I read about the proposal for using the museum plans the site, the more it sounds like good old boy politics! They will buy the site for $8.1 million, but if they come up with a proposal to do $2 million worth of development they get the site for $1. Sounds like another Cordish style giveaway, doesn’t it?

  • Msradell

    The more I read about the proposal for using the museum plans the site, the more it sounds like good old boy politics! They will buy the site for $8.1 million, but if they come up with a proposal to do $2 million worth of development they get the site for $1. Sounds like another Cordish style giveaway, doesn’t it?

  • Joey Saylor

    Fisher will get re-elected simply because there are no other options on the table. He’s a “safe” choice just like the Jerry “the mayor for life” was. Says all the right things, doesn’t comment on tough issues and comes out with all kinds of feel good, get fit crap to distract from the important issues he doesn’t want to comment on. In other words, he’s a politician aka cheerleader. So if that’s what you call “taking credit – mostly deservedly so” than you are right. On downtown there have been issues with vacancy for years and it’s about to get much worse. Not only that all those condos downtown have lots of vacancies too. It will kind of be a problem to get retail & hospitality to thrive with even less people around, you think?

  • Joey Saylor

    Fisher will get re-elected simply because there are no other options on the table. He’s a “safe” choice just like the Jerry “the mayor for life” was. Says all the right things, doesn’t comment on tough issues and comes out with all kinds of feel good, get fit crap to distract from the important issues he doesn’t want to comment on. In other words, he’s a politician aka cheerleader. So if that’s what you call “taking credit – mostly deservedly so” than you are right. On downtown there have been issues with vacancy for years and it’s about to get much worse. Not only that all those condos downtown have lots of vacancies too. It will kind of be a problem to get retail & hospitality to thrive with even less people around, you think?

  • Albrecht Stahmer

    There are no plans or proposal yet. In order to acquire the land for $1, they’d need to bring the city plans for $200 million, not $2 million.

  • Albrecht Stahmer

    There are no plans or proposal yet. In order to acquire the land for $1, they’d need to bring the city plans for $200 million, not $2 million.

  • J. Bruce Miller

    This is what happens when a city goes to sleep and allows itself to become a ‘college town.’ It isn’t unique, here. It happened in Knoxville 3 decades ago — going from hosting the World’s Fair in 1982. It was glorious — an ‘Energy Exposition’ featuring parks, futurized buildings, a distinctive symbol globe on a ‘stick’ downtown and its adjacency to Oak Ridge (of atomic energy fame). 11 million people visited it (according to records), but it was a ‘one-shot’ with no follow-up. The head banker and organizer, Jake Butcher, became Tennessee’s Governor and then went to prison. The local leadership failed to ‘capitalize’ on its INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE — and reverted to its place as a ‘college town.’

    A former NBA owner once, while discussing Louisville’s future, likened it to Knoxville, but couldn’t understand why Louisville wanted to emulate Knoxville and ‘offer’ a ‘give-away’ arena lease to a college, when it had so many other advantages — UPS’s world-wide significance, a mile-wide river and a heritage of 19th century economic relevance (when Knoxville had none of that). Time to wake up and cease patting ourselves on the back and get down to business. We cannot be economically-relevant in the 21st century being simply known as a ‘college-town.’

  • J. Bruce Miller

    This is what happens when a city goes to sleep and allows itself to become a ‘college town.’ It isn’t unique, here. It happened in Knoxville 3 decades ago — going from hosting the World’s Fair in 1982. It was glorious — an ‘Energy Exposition’ featuring parks, futurized buildings, a distinctive symbol globe on a ‘stick’ downtown and its adjacency to Oak Ridge (of atomic energy fame). 11 million people visited it (according to records), but it was a ‘one-shot’ with no follow-up. The head banker and organizer, Jake Butcher, became Tennessee’s Governor and then went to prison. The local leadership failed to ‘capitalize’ on its INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE — and reverted to its place as a ‘college town.’

    A former NBA owner once, while discussing Louisville’s future, likened it to Knoxville, but couldn’t understand why Louisville wanted to emulate Knoxville, when it had so many other advantages — UPS’s world-wide significance, a mile-wide river and a heritage of 19th century economic relevance (when Knoxville had none of that). Time to wake up and cease patting ourselves on the back and get down to business. We cannot be economically-relevant in the 21st century being simply known as a ‘college-town.’

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenneth.a.herndon Kenneth Alan Herndon

    Downtown Target as part of the Cordish deal, pursuit of an NBA team to make the Yum Center more viable, casino in the Louisville Gardens building with the requirement that no restaurants be allowed inside so that dinner goers would patronize existing venues.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenneth.a.herndon Kenneth Alan Herndon

    Downtown Target as part of the Cordish deal, pursuit of an NBA team to make the Yum Center more viable, casino in the Louisville Gardens building with the requirement that no restaurants be allowed inside so that dinner goers would patronize existing venues.

  • J. Bruce Miller

    If I could add one further comment — in my opinion this article is the single most important article that has been written about this City and its future in a global economy – that I can remember ever being written. Louisville is, definitively, at a crossroads. In 1938 George Leighton wrote a book entitled “Five Cities”. One of them was Louisville. The sub-title to Louisville’s chapter (circa 1938) was “The City that lets well-enough alone.” Leighton was as correct in 1938 as he would be today. Louisville SIMPLY could not compete, effectively, in the 20th century economy vs. Charlotte, Indy, Nashville, Cincy, etc. In the 21st century – we have NO SHOT if we allow it to be branded as a ‘college town.’ While a nice college, its ability to generate economic relevancy to Louisville in a ‘global economy’ is problematic at best — and at worst — is non-existent.

  • J. Bruce Miller

    If I could add one further comment — in my opinion this article is the single most important article that has been written about this City and its future in a global economy – that I can remember ever being written. Louisville is, definitively, at a crossroads. In 1938 George Leighton wrote a book entitled “Five Cities”. One of them was Louisville. The sub-title to Louisville’s chapter (circa 1938) was “The City that lets well-enough alone.” Leighton was as correct in 1938 as he would be today. Louisville SIMPLY could not compete, effectively, in the 20th century economy vs. Charlotte, Indy, Nashville, Cincy, etc. In the 21st century – we have NO SHOT if we allow it to be branded as a ‘college town.’ While a nice college, its ability to generate economic relevancy to Louisville in a ‘global economy’ is problematic at best — and at worst — is non-existent.

  • Repurpose ReUser

    Regarding “Commissioners Sales:” At one time the site stated that a “winning” bid only had to be, minimally, something like “80% of the appraised value.” Seems it would be foolish to bid MORE than the required percentage unless you found yourself in a bidding war.
    Also, those “appraisals” are suspect. Too much room for subjectivity. I see very disparate evaluations for similar properties, in similar condition, within blocks of one another. At times they will, for no apparent reason, value the land differently from the very same size lot on a street one block over that might be perceived to have “a better reputation.” The same subjectivity is used in appraising the house and its current condition, leaving me scratching my head. And the appraisal is often very dishearteningly lower than the monies owed on the property – unless the house is in the Highlands or the East End!

  • Repurpose ReUser

    Regarding “Commissioners Sales:” At one time the site stated that a “winning” bid only had to be, minimally, something like “80% of the appraised value.” Seems it would be foolish to bid MORE than the required percentage unless you found yourself in a bidding war.
    Also, those “appraisals” are suspect. Too much room for subjectivity. I see very disparate evaluations for similar properties, in similar condition, within blocks of one another. At times they will, for no apparent reason, value the land differently from the very same size lot on a street one block over that might be perceived to have “a better reputation.” The same subjectivity is used in appraising the house and its current condition, leaving me scratching my head. And the appraisal is often very dishearteningly lower than the monies owed on the property – unless the house is in the Highlands or the East End!

  • Joey Saylor

    Valid points except I know all this leads to “we need the NBA here”. Unless U of L would be willing to share the Yum Center (which I doubt seriously) no way it’s happening. I do agree all major cities have at least one pro sports team but Louisville doesn’t have the “will to or want to” to get one. Ironically one of Louisville’s biggest strengths which is staying the course is also it’s biggest weakness because this city does that to a fault. People here want NO change at all which is worse than wanting a lot of changes sometimes. Hence why a mayor gets elected over and over and over and over and over again.

    BTW I made this point before but want to reiterate we don’t have the economy here to fill an arena for an NBA team either. The market is too small here and Stern knows it.

  • Joey Saylor

    Valid points except I know all this leads to “we need the NBA here”. Unless U of L would be willing to share the Yum Center (which I doubt seriously) no way it’s happening. I do agree all major cities have at least one pro sports team but Louisville doesn’t have the “will to or want to” to get one. Ironically one of Louisville’s biggest strengths which is staying the course is also it’s biggest weakness because this city does that to a fault. People here want NO change at all which is worse than wanting a lot of changes sometimes. Hence why a mayor gets elected over and over and over and over and over again.

    BTW I made this point before but want to reiterate we don’t have the economy here to fill an arena for an NBA team either. The market is too small here and Stern knows it.

  • J. Bruce Miller

    Mr. Saylor: The NBA Louisville ‘market’ is not Jefferson County. Every major league professional team’s ‘market’ is 100 miles from the arena. Within 100 miles of ‘the arena’ are Covington, Lexington, Frankfort, Columbus, Ind. and all within it. It is served by 1, exclusive, cable television franchise (which is only true in 7 other existing NBA markets). There are 2.2 million people living within that Louisville NBA ‘market’. That’s more than or as many as Ok. City, Memphis, Salt Lake City, Indy, San Antonio, and about as many as Portland. 4 of those cities are in this years NBA playoffs. THAT’S WHAT DAVID STERN KNOWS. He also knows that an NBA team belongs in Louisville, IF AND WHEN LOUISVILLE decides it wants to compete for economic relevancy in the 21st Century’s ‘global economy.’

  • J. Bruce Miller

    Mr. Saylor: The NBA Louisville ‘market’ is not Jefferson County. Every major league professional team’s ‘market’ is 100 miles from the arena. Within 100 miles of ‘the arena’ are Covington, Lexington, Frankfort, Columbus, Ind. and all within it. It is served by 1, exclusive, cable television franchise (which is only true in 7 other existing NBA markets). There are 2.2 million people living within that Louisville NBA ‘market’. That’s more than or as many as Ok. City, Memphis, Salt Lake City, Indy, San Antonio, and about as many as Portland. 4 of those cities are in this years NBA playoffs. THAT’S WHAT DAVID STERN KNOWS. He also knows that an NBA team belongs in Louisville, IF AND WHEN LOUISVILLE decides it wants to compete for economic relevancy in the 21st Century’s ‘global economy.’

  • RyderCup1

    Here you go again…..”Insider Louisville has had more than one post lately about the dire downtown office vacancy situation, with thousands of jobs moving to the suburbs in what’s looking increasingly like a repeat of the 1980s.”

    The sky is surely falling in good ol River City….or is it?

    Nashville’s (Yea NASHVILLE whom pundits suggest bests Louisville in most things econ-dev-wise) downtown shed thousands of jobs while neighboring
    communities, such as Cool Springs in Williamson County, gained workers
    during the first decade of the 21st century, according to a study
    released today….The job shift is not unique to Nashville: Most major American cities also saw a drop in the share of jobs downtown while their suburbs grew
    during the decade, continuing a long-term trend, Brookings Institute said.

    The ‘dire downtown office vacancy situation, with thousands of jobs moving to the suburbs’is not unique to Louisville! All of our regional competitors are experiencing the SAME thing

  • RyderCup1

    Here you go again…..”Insider Louisville has had more than one post lately about the dire downtown office vacancy situation, with thousands of jobs moving to the suburbs in what’s looking increasingly like a repeat of the 1980s.”

    The sky is surely falling in good ol River City….or is it?

    Nashville’s (Yea NASHVILLE whom pundits suggest bests Louisville in most things econ-dev-wise) downtown shed thousands of jobs while neighboring
    communities, such as Cool Springs in Williamson County, gained workers
    during the first decade of the 21st century, according to a study
    released today….The job shift is not unique to Nashville: Most major American cities also saw a drop in the share of jobs downtown while their suburbs grew
    during the decade, continuing a long-term trend, Brookings Institute said.

    The ‘dire downtown office vacancy situation, with thousands of jobs moving to the suburbs’is not unique to Louisville! All of our regional competitors are experiencing the SAME thing

  • RyderCup1

    Mr. Miller,

    I applaud your efforts to bring the NBA to Louisville (where it would be successful) however, I think the light of fact needs to be shed on your post.

    The “Five Cities” were: Shenandoah, Louisville, Birmingham, Omaha, Seattle.

    Louisville did in fact compete very effectively in most of the 20th Century v Charlotte, Indy, Nashville and Cincy. It lost it’s way in the latter part of the 20th Century (70′s-80′s) as its economy underwent significant changes but it recovered and was growing ever stronger until the Great Recession…which impacted everyone….Charlotte most of all as it has seen its banking employment decimated.

    “The city that let well enough alone” is not the same city that embarked on airport expansion in the 80’s-90’s; not the same city that has transformed its Waterfront and Downtown area the past 20 years;
    not the same city that built the YUM Center and certainly not the same city that is now building two new Ohio River bridges

    Finally, NO SHOT in the 21st Century if branded as a “college town”? Really? Really? Austin and RDU come to mind as to metro areas that are ‘known as college towns/metros’ that are doing very well in the 21st Century economy.

    Again, I support your efforts to bring the NBA to town, but you greatly overstate its importance and greatly understate Louisville’s
    strengths in the 21st Century.

  • RyderCup1

    Mr. Miller,

    I applaud your efforts to bring the NBA to Louisville (where it would be successful) however, I think the light of fact needs to be shed on your post.

    The “Five Cities” were: Shenandoah, Louisville, Birmingham, Omaha, Seattle.

    Louisville did in fact compete very effectively in most of the 20th Century v Charlotte, Indy, Nashville and Cincy. It lost it’s way in the latter part of the 20th Century (70′s-80′s) as its economy underwent significant changes but it recovered and was growing ever stronger until the Great Recession…which impacted everyone….Charlotte most of all as it has seen its banking employment decimated.

    “The city that let well enough alone” is not the same city that embarked on airport expansion in the 80’s-90’s; not the same city that has transformed its Waterfront and Downtown area the past 20 years;
    not the same city that built the YUM Center and certainly not the same city that is now building two new Ohio River bridges

    Finally, NO SHOT in the 21st Century if branded as a “college town”? Really? Really? Austin and RDU come to mind as to metro areas that are ‘known as college towns/metros’ that are doing very well in the 21st Century economy.

    Again, I support your efforts to bring the NBA to town, but you greatly overstate its importance and greatly understate Louisville’s
    strengths in the 21st Century.

  • RyderCup1

    Mr. Miller,

    Again I applaud your efforts to bring the NBA to Louisville.

    NBA owners are hardly experts on matters involving metro economies and Knoxville has never been a peer to Louisville (Lexington yes, Louisville never).

    Your definition of ‘waking up’ and “ceasing to pat ourselves on the back and get down to business’ = 3 letters = NBA.

    That is as myopic as Knoxville’s vision of world domination based on its 1982 World’s Fair.

  • RyderCup1

    Mr. Miller,

    Again I applaud your efforts to bring the NBA to Louisville.

    NBA owners are hardly experts on matters involving metro economies and Knoxville has never been a peer to Louisville (Lexington yes, Louisville never).

    Your definition of ‘waking up’ and “ceasing to pat ourselves on the back and get down to business’ = 3 letters = NBA.

    That is as myopic as Knoxville’s vision of world domination based on its 1982 World’s Fair.

  • J. Bruce Miller

    RyderCup: Thank you for your applause. There’s no point in continuing this communication, because it’s obvious that you have not perceived the message that is being delivered by Mr. Boyd’s column in InsiderLouisville. To claim that Austin is comparable to Louisville, because of the local universities is like comparing Secretariat with a $15,000 claimer. U.Texas has an endowment approaching $3 Billion and it’s undergraduate academic offering is ranked in the top 35 of the nation’s universities. UL’s endowment (including ‘promised gifts’ unfulfilled) approaches $700mm and its undergraduate academic standing is a tie for 160th in the Nation. UTexas has an active and quite large PhiBetaKappa chapter while U/L doesn’t have one. While Austin has a college, like Nashville or Chicago or Boston or San Francisco it is NOT a college town. It’s the state capital of one of the wealthiest and most influential states in America. We’ll just choose to disagree. In my opinion, Knoxville is far closer to Louisville’s present predicament, than is Austin.

  • J. Bruce Miller

    RyderCup: Thank you for your applause. There’s no point in continuing this communication, because it’s obvious that you have not perceived the message that is being delivered by Mr. Boyd’s column in InsiderLouisville. To claim that Austin is comparable to Louisville, because of the local universities is like comparing Secretariat with a $15,000 claimer. U.Texas has an endowment approaching $3 Billion and it’s undergraduate academic offering is ranked in the top 35 of the nation’s universities. UL’s endowment (including ‘promised gifts’ unfulfilled) approaches $700mm and its undergraduate academic standing is a tie for 160th in the Nation. UTexas has an active and quite large PhiBetaKappa chapter while U/L doesn’t have one. While Austin has a college, like Nashville or Chicago or Boston or San Francisco it is NOT a college town. It’s the state capital of one of the wealthiest and most influential states in America. We’ll just choose to disagree. In my opinion, Knoxville is far closer to Louisville’s present predicament, than is Austin.

  • RyderCup1

    Mr. Miller,

    Two points: 1) Am not sure what the message is in Mr. Boyd’s column? I think it is about the ‘dire occupancy rate of the CBD’? That point was commented upon in another post. In sum, that is not unique to Louisville (or Austin or Nashville, Indy, Cinci etc). Methinks ‘crossroads’ might be too strong a term as all that downtown development that was or is to be is predicated on the strengthening of the national economy and not on the lack of a pro sports team.

    2) I made no comparison between Louisville and Austin (or RDU). l instead I stated the fact that the ‘college brand’ does not hurt Austin or RDU (who in fact are also state capitals) in the global economy of the 21st Century

    If there were a TN city that we could better compare/contrast Louisville with I would suggest that to be Memphis. I would argue that the NBA has not helped Memphis become a stronger competitor to Louisville.

  • RyderCup1

    Mr. Miller,

    Two points: 1) Am not sure what the message is in Mr. Boyd’s column? I think it is about the ‘dire occupancy rate of the CBD’? That point was commented upon in another post. In sum, that is not unique to Louisville (or Austin or Nashville, Indy, Cinci etc). Methinks ‘crossroads’ might be too strong a term as all that downtown development that was or is to be is predicated on the strengthening of the national economy and not on the lack of a pro sports team.

    2) I made no comparison between Louisville and Austin (or RDU). l instead I stated the fact that the ‘college brand’ does not hurt Austin or RDU (who in fact are also state capitals) in the global economy of the 21st Century

    If there were a TN city that we could better compare/contrast Louisville with I would suggest that to be Memphis. I would argue that the NBA has not helped Memphis become a stronger competitor to Louisville.

  • RyderCup1

    “First, KFC Yum! Center is putting a $10 million hole in the city’s
    budget because the Tax Increment Financing District meant to fund the
    downtown arena isn’t.

    Before the recession, arena proponents sold the idea Louisville could
    afford the $348 million facility because it in turn would revive
    downtown investment, generating the tax revenue to pay for the bonds.
    Yet, the blocks south and east of the arena – an area that was supposed
    to be in a full-blown renaissance by now – have stalled projects, vacant
    buildings, blighted blocks and unrealized potential.”

    - addressing Mr. Boyd’s first point with a story:

    “I was in Indy recently for business and landed at their $1B
    airport; went to see the Cards play Duke in their $1B stadium; stayed in a
    downtown hotel that charged NYC style prices and occupancy taxes and rented a car that also got hit with NYC style taxes. Let’s just say that Indy ain’t NYC.

    The YUM finances pale compared to what the taxpayers (and visitors) of Indy are faced with. The RCA Dome was knocked down and replaced with Lucas Oil Stadium – neither of which are paid for….and thus the reason for some of the highest visitor taxes in the country. Indy is fooling itself it thinks it can get away with NYC style prices….Indy ain’t NYC. (Cinci has similar challenges with PBS but it just socks Hamilton County taxpayers)

    Anyway…for Louisville…the real key is….when does the National Rececession end? When it does…the TIF District is likely to meet/exceed expectations. That is not just wishful thinking.

    This is the deepest recession since the Depression and certainly worse than the 1981-82 and 90-91 recessions. Louisville is far stronger as it emerges from this deep recession and the stats support it for job creation and real estate activity. The ORBP is happening at the right time and will further accelerate the
    metro area’s emergence from the Great Recession.

    No this does not mean all is roses but the sky is not falling! Heck, if all goes well….an NBA team might come a calling!
    The YUM finances pale in comparison to what Indy faces (or Cinci for
    PBS/GAMBP)

  • RyderCup1

    “First, KFC Yum! Center is putting a $10 million hole in the city’s
    budget because the Tax Increment Financing District meant to fund the
    downtown arena isn’t.

    Before the recession, arena proponents sold the idea Louisville could
    afford the $348 million facility because it in turn would revive
    downtown investment, generating the tax revenue to pay for the bonds.
    Yet, the blocks south and east of the arena – an area that was supposed
    to be in a full-blown renaissance by now – have stalled projects, vacant
    buildings, blighted blocks and unrealized potential.”

    - addressing Mr. Boyd’s first point with a story:

    “I was in Indy recently for business and landed at their $1B
    airport; went to see the Cards play Duke in their $1B stadium; stayed in a
    downtown hotel that charged NYC style prices and occupancy taxes and rented a car that also got hit with NYC style taxes. Let’s just say that Indy ain’t NYC.

    The YUM finances pale compared to what the taxpayers (and visitors) of Indy are faced with. The RCA Dome was knocked down and replaced with Lucas Oil Stadium – neither of which are paid for….and thus the reason for some of the highest visitor taxes in the country. Indy is fooling itself it thinks it can get away with NYC style prices….Indy ain’t NYC. (Cinci has similar challenges with PBS but it just socks Hamilton County taxpayers)

    Anyway…for Louisville…the real key is….when does the National Rececession end? When it does…the TIF District is likely to meet/exceed expectations. That is not just wishful thinking.

    This is the deepest recession since the Depression and certainly worse than the 1981-82 and 90-91 recessions. Louisville is far stronger as it emerges from this deep recession and the stats support it for job creation and real estate activity. The ORBP is happening at the right time and will further accelerate the
    metro area’s emergence from the Great Recession.

    No this does not mean all is roses but the sky is not falling! Heck, if all goes well….an NBA team might come a calling!
    The YUM finances pale in comparison to what Indy faces (or Cinci for
    PBS/GAMBP)

  • Joey Saylor

    You think people will travel from those places to come here on a regular basis? The average HH income in the places you mention is around $40,000 a year. Families are not going to spend money on gas (especially if they are over an hour away), food and tickets because they don’t have it to spend. Surely you know this with all due respect? Frankly I am surprised Oklahoma City has a team as economically depressed as they are, but then again their college basketball teams are horrible so people don’t turn out for those games like they do for U of L here. Therefore that money goes toward watching their pro team rather than their college teams.

  • Joey Saylor

    You think people will travel from those places to come here on a regular basis? The average HH income in the places you mention is around $40,000 a year. Families are not going to spend money on gas (especially if they are over an hour away), food and tickets because they don’t have it to spend. Surely you know this with all due respect? Frankly I am surprised Oklahoma City has a team as economically depressed as they are, but then again their college basketball teams are horrible so people don’t turn out for those games like they do for U of L here. Therefore that money goes toward watching their pro team rather than their college teams.

  • J. Bruce Miller

    Mr. Saylor: You don’t understand the economics of a major league team, particularly the NBA. Well over 1/2 the budget for virtually every NBA team comes from the split of the international/national television contracts (last year it was $67mm per team). The regional cable tv package of advertising for the average mid-sized city team brings another $20-25mm per team. That revenue stream allows for the ticket prices to be lower than they are for U/L or U/K games when you consider the ‘contribution’ you have to make in order to be able to purchase the season ticket for either school. Furthermore, most mid-sized city franchises sell 10 game packages which allow fans to see 10 games and then follow their team on the cable television market. So, your lack of understanding of the economics of the mid-sized NBA markets have allowed you to reach conclusions that are innacurate (whether that’s convenient or accidental, I don’t know).

  • J. Bruce Miller

    Mr. Saylor: You don’t understand the economics of a major league team, particularly the NBA. Well over 1/2 the budget for virtually every NBA team comes from the split of the international/national television contracts (last year it was $67mm per team). The regional cable tv package of advertising for the average mid-sized city team brings another $20-25mm per team. That revenue stream allows for the ticket prices to be lower than they are for U/L or U/K games when you consider the ‘contribution’ you have to make in order to be able to purchase the season ticket for either school. Furthermore, most mid-sized city franchises sell 10 game packages which allow fans to see 10 games and then follow their team on the cable television market. So, your lack of understanding of the economics of the mid-sized NBA markets have allowed you to reach conclusions that are innacurate (whether that’s convenient or accidental, I don’t know).

  • Joey Saylor

    Well OK then. Hence one of my favorite quotes: “To those that believe, no explanation is necessary. To those who don’t, no explanation will do.” Frankly all points are moot because as I said, the NBA will not have access to the Yum Center and that is a deal breaker. If you are going to tell us that the NBA will accept Freedom Hall as a venue, than you lost the argument right there IMHO.

  • Joey Saylor

    Well OK then. Hence one of my favorite quotes: “To those that believe, no explanation is necessary. To those who don’t, no explanation will do.” Frankly all points are moot because as I said, the NBA will not have access to the Yum Center and that is a deal breaker. If you are going to tell us that the NBA will accept Freedom Hall as a venue, than you lost the argument right there IMHO.

  • jonathantaylor

    Great article! Greg Fisher, in my opinion, DOES NOT derserve another term as Mayor! He is an appologist for suburbanisation. Our downtown has suffered under Fisher’s leadership!

  • http://profiles.google.com/jtaylor37 Jonathan Taylor

    Great article! Greg Fisher, in my opinion, DOES NOT derserve another term as Mayor! He is an appologist for suburbanisation. Our downtown has suffered under Fisher’s leadership!

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