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Gill Holland: ‘It’s great to see Mayor Fischer looking west to Portland!”


Compassion buildingMayor Greg Fischer, Third District Congressman John Yarmuth and other dignitaries sent out a media alert yesterday touting the announcement this morning of a big Portland initiative.

That announcement mentions the renovation of more than 75 homes as part of revitalizing the Portland neighborhood just west of the central business district. Which of course is already Mr. Holland’s Neighborhood.

Developer/entertainment impresario Gill Holland spoke to 150 people at the St. Matthews Area Chamber of Commerce Wednesday about his ongoing push into Portland. That project involves acquiring several properties, including the former Portland Christian School, now The Compassion Building. We had IL people there, of course. Then we followed up yesterday about the mayor’s announcement with a live interview in Holland’s The Green Building offices.


East Market Street District, aka NuLu.

“It is great to see the mayor looking west and confronting the vacant and abandoned houses issue head on in this positive way!” Holland said. “When the private sector and public sector support each other in this way, good things are bound to happen.”

At the St. Matthews Chamber lunch meeting, Holland talked in detail about his  plans to move his various businesses to The Compassion Building in Portland October 1 from The Green Building in NuLu. NuLu is the five blocks of East Market Street between Hancock on the west and Wenzel on the east. The area on the east side of downtown went from Skid Row to the city’s most vibrant arts, entertainment and dining quarter after a Holland-led group of investors entered East Market Street circa 2007.



Holland’s businesses include the Louisville offices for New York City-based The Group Entertainment, his movie production business, and SonaBLAST! Records.

Now, in Portland, Holland and a group of investors that include Shine Contracting partners Matt Gillis and Gregg Rochman are acquiring both residences and commercial buildings.

We told you back in March about the ambitious scope of Holland and Company’s Portland plan, far larger in scale than NuLu, where Holland, Tim Peters, William Mapother and others paid $5 million for the former Wayside Christian Mission properties.

In Portland, the Holland group plans to raise:

• $22 million to buy a number of properties in Portland. That includes:

• $10 million to buy and rehab properties on the east side of Portland around 15th Street where Grasshoppers Distribution and other farm-to-table operations are now, referred to as the  “East Portland Warehouse District.”

• $10 million that would enable them to acquire large buildings where they envision a shopping district, also termed the “Portland Stroll District.”

• $2 million would go to buy over time about 100 small shotgun houses from 16th Street to 23rd Street.

Holland told the St. Matthews business group Wednesday that in addition to his business operations, a number of non-profit groups are negotiating to move into The Compassion Building, including a children’s museum. Those include Squallis Puppeteers, The Community Farm Alliance and the Louisville Leopards Percussionists. No deals are final, he said.

Children’s museum officials haven’t voted on whether they’ll take free space in the building, Holland said. “But they have an architect who’s doing designs for what it could look like, and they’re bringing the renderings over (today). So it seems like it’s moving forward.”

Holland said he expects no problems with zoning, with The Compassion Building going to C-1 Commercial from R6 multi-residential.

The biggest Portland challenge, he tells IL, is property values:

The average short-term investor is not going to be interested. You buy (a house) for $10,000, but you have to put in $50,000. The day you finish it, you’ve put in 70 grand, but based on property comps, it’s worth $25,000. You can’t sell it. It cash flows if you rent it.

Holland wants to work with local banks or with Park Community Federal Credit Union “and maybe there’s a way we can take people who might not otherwise be able to get a mortgage and get them to buy a house, with the bank holding the mortgage.”

The funniest question at the St. Matthews Chamber event was, ” ‘What do we do with Shelbyville Road?’ Holland said. “And I said, “Wow, I never thought about that. It would be nice if it were a tree-lined boulevard with Green medians. Bioswales. That would be interesting.

“The great thing is, so many people came up and said, ‘My parents are from Portland. I grew up in Portland.’ I feel like Portland’s influence is more widespread than general perception would have it.”

At the St. Matthews meeting, their chamber members proposed working with the Portland Business Association. The St. Matthews group “is a huge chamber,” Holland said. “Also, it’s a chamber, not a neighborhood association. They have group insurance, so they might have some benefits I hadn’t thought of.”

“I love the idea of different parts of town working together.”

Mayor Greg Fischer’s Portland initiative announcement is this morning.

Here are the details.


Friday, August 23

10:30 a.m.


2741 W. Main St. (one of the homes that has already been renovated)


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