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Insider Louisville Exclusive: What we can tell you about Gill Holland’s plans for Compassion Building

by Melissa Chipman

Compassion Building Photos by Melissa Chipman

Recently, we gave Insider Louisville readers an exclusive first peek into the Gill Holland-led Portland Stroll District, LLC’s new Compassion Building. This week we have some exclusive insights to what’s going to happen (or what Holland hopes will happen) with the project.

Here’s what we can tell you:

Holland is all in.

He’s moving his business headquarters for The Group Entertainment film production company and other businesses from The Green Building in NuLu to the second floor west wing of Compassion Building. He will maintain a very small office in the Green Building for Stephanie Brothers, who is in charge of events held at the building.

Most of the office space occupied by Holland in the Green Building has been rented to other tenants. He’s looking to be in the Compassion Building somewhere in the neighborhood of June.

As we reported last week, there will indeed be a community garden. Holland is interviewing several professional gardeners, looking for someone to manage the logistics of the site. The National Register of Historic Places application for the old Montgomery Street School cites the property acreage at .59 acres.

If even half of that ends up cultivated, the plot will still be more than a quarter-acre. The specifics of how the garden will be run are still up in the air. But Holland says that the facility will definitely have an educational component with a resident gardener on hand to teach community members about cultivation and sustainable gardening practices.

As with the Green Building, Compassion Building will also have an art gallery, likely curated by Daniel Pfalzgraf, the curator for the Green Building.

Holland’s holdings in the Portland neighborhood now also include a building at 1500 Bank Street that was scheduled for demolition,and a historic shotgun home.

When Holland talks about investing in Portland, he talks about investing in “community,” not about the financial endgame. Of course he believes that there is a financial end game, eventually, but right now “community” is the focus.

Holland and his partners have been cited (by us and by others) as saying that Compassion Building will be a mix of for-profit and non-profit organizations. Some have interpreted this (and the building’s altruistic-sounding name) to mean that the building will be a “community center.” It won’t be. There will be tenants throughout the building.

What kinds of tenants? We’ve heard some of Holland’s wish list, but that’s not ready for public consumption.

What we can tell you is that there seems to be a – intentional or not – leaning toward children-centered services, businesses and organization. What better way to immediately boost the neighborhood’s local profile than by having parents from all across Louisville have to take their kids to events at or drop their kids off at Compassion Building?

We’re just working with a wish list, so this may not end up being the case, but it’s an interesting potential profile-raiser.

Holland has not (as he said a “smart developer” would) looked into purchasing property adjacent to Compassion Building.

But he does believe that property values will rise when the building is restored to full use.

As we reported our “sneak peek” article, the new owners of the property intend to open up the gates so that area kids can once again use the basketball goals. That was later reconfirmed by Shine Contracting’s Gregg Rochmann on a brief piece about the school purchase on WHAS.

Holland also spoke about installing solar panels on the historic annex and teased the possibility of something that sounds a little like a micro accelerator for small businesses.

The first scheduled event for the building was planned before the building was sold; it’s a picnic reunion in June for students of the old Emma Dolfinger School which occupied the building from 1928 until 1977. (Emma Dolfinger was a beloved teacher and science department chair at Girls High School. She eventually went on to supervise the science program for the entire school district.)

As for the April car show the Portland Christian School reps mentioned in our last article, we asked Holland about that and he said, “I guess I’ll have to find out when that is.”

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