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Mayor Fischer catches up with Insider Louisville, announces new Fourth Street retailers

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Our best guess as to where the new retailers are going.

(Editor’s note: This was updated at 1:30 p.m.  on December 19.)

Insider Louisville told you back in October about the city-driven effort to bring more retail to Fourth Street.

We had most of the details, including Jimmy Fox’s involvement.

Today, Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer and Louisville Downtown Development Corp. execs confirmed our story and added a few names of the new retailers, though no details about who, where or when.

(Our sources told us a first wave of up to seven retailers may sign on to take various spaces along the block, which runs from a new Bill Weyland/CITY Properties Group project at the Guthrie-Coke Building at the northwest corner of Fourth and Chestnut streets to Bycks Lofts at Fourth Street and Guthrie Green. A number of local apparel retailers and established boutique owners told Insider Louisville at the time they were asked to come to the Fourth Street project, but declined because the plans were, according to one, “vague, at best.”)

Fischer did reveal the city is putting up $500,000 for streetscape work, which will begin next month.

LDDC issued a request for quotation in July for design guidelines for the South Fourth Street Retail District.

This Fourth Street renaissance effort actually dates back to mid-2011, when LDDC officials announced a mega-plan to, in essence, do what Gill Holland did in NuLu, only on Fourth Street.

That has never really happened.

No marquee retailers have ever  bitten, while NuLu now has about 20 apparel stores and gift shops, with more on the way. (However, it appears Regalo art gallery is moving to Fourth Street from Barrett Avenue in the Highlands. THAT’S news!)

All that said, the mayor and LDDC announced six new businesses, so let’s not steal their thunder.

Here’s the full release from LDDC:

By next spring, downtown Louisville will welcome six new retail businesses to South Fourth Street between the Seelbach and Brown Hotels. The openings support findings made by a retail market study commissioned last year by the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation (LDDC), stating that downtown Louisville can support considerable additional retail, as it currently captures only 52% of its retail sales potential. The mix of retail offerings offered by these new businesses aligns with recommendations made by a merchandising plan for South Fourth Street that was commissioned by LDDC and completed in October, 2011.

The new businesses are:

Art Eatables – a small-batch bourbon truffle shop.

Block Party Handmade Boutique – a collaborative retail, studio, and workshop for artists.

Celebrations – a custom invitation and gift shop.

The Leading Man – a men’s clothing and accessories shop.

Les Filles Louisville – an artisan jewelry and accessories shop.

Regalo – a gift, one-of-a-kind jewelry, and accessories shop.

“We invested in this key corridor in our current budget because we knew the potential was there,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “The common thread with these new stores is that they’re uniquely Louisville — local owners with interesting concepts that help Keep Louisville Weird, and we need to thank these entrepreneurs for stepping up.” A true public-private partnership, the retail development occurring on South Fourth Street will benefit from entrepreneurs investing in their retail businesses, as well as a $500,000 investment by Louisville Metro Government to improve the sidewalks and lighting on Fourth Street. The streetscape improvement work will begin in January and be finished in time for the new store openings in spring of 2013.

We just got this from Insider Louisville contributor Steve Kaufman, who reminded us that we had more of this story than we remembered.

Steve sent us this backgrounder drawn for him notes for “Successful Louisville retailers weigh in on Fourth Street shopping district: ‘The City needs good planning, lots of money’ “

Les Filles and Celebrations were two of the retailers we contacted a year ago after the Courier-Journal ran an article on a study commissioned by the Louisville Downtown Development Corp. The C-J accompanied that with a short list of likely downtown candidates. We called them. Apart from the fact that most were even unaware of being “likely candidates,” they also expressed a good deal of wariness. Cathy Arkwright, an owner of Les Filles Boutique in Westport Village, expressed some interest. “It’s definitely something we would look at,” she said at the time, but “it would help if the city were talking about helping retailers out with loans and other financial incentives. That would be critical!”

And Trish Lounsbury, owner of Celebrations on Brownsboro Road, said, “If I were presented with a plan that looked like a going operation right off the bat, with logical projections and a real possibility of success, that would make a real difference. But I’d need to see other tenants were ready to go in. I wouldn’t venture on my own without enough other attractions to get people down there.” Also, said Lounsbury, “there would have to be a plan for enough parking. Street parking, even if it’s free, can still be hit-or-miss in people’s minds. And has anyone looked at neighborhoods that have worked, such as East Market Street? What have they been able to do that downtown has not?”

Apparently, someone has addressed Arkwright’s and Lounsbury’s concerns.

Suitable real estate was another impediment to retail revitalization, with many of the buildings between Fourth Street Live on the north and Broadway on the south owned by absentee landlords.

Jimmy Fox at FBM Properties, which controls at least one of the buildings – 544 S. Fourth St. Fox declined to discuss the project when we called eight weeks ago. Bill Weyland also wouldn’t talk about what’s going on.

The building we know will be the center of this is owned by DSK Holdings. Bhagwan R Khiani of Jeffersonville, Ind. is the owner of the building, according to Jefferson County Public Valuation Administrator records.

We couldn’t find an active telephone number for Khiani back in October, and it doesn’t look like LDDC officials are going to comment in any more detail.

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