This post has been updated.
After facing several months of delays, Louisville developer Underhill Associates finally broke ground on its $5 million redevelopment of Colonial Gardens in the Kenwood Hill neighborhood.
The company had hoped to break ground in the spring, but the Little Caesars on the property declined to leave before its lease was up, preventing renovation work from getting underway sooner. Construction will take roughly 14 months and wrap up in spring 2019.
“Remember the James Brown song, ‘I feel good,’ ” Jeff Underhill, a principal with Underhill Associates who is leading this project, told Insider ahead of the groundbreaking. “It’s wonderful because it’s a pretty day out, and I think there are going to be a lot of smiles and people have been anticipating something for a long time, and I hope now they won’t feel as if they have suffered as much when they realize something good is going to happen.”
Colonial Gardens has sat vacant since 2003.
The city “stepped up to the plate” by buying the property at 818 West Kenwood Drive for $430,000 in 2013 and making sure Colonial Gardens wasn’t leveled or filled with inferior tenants, Underhill said.
The city plans to sell Colonial Gardens to Underhill Associates for $1 and also will contribute $2.4 million toward its redevelopment, according to the mayor’s office. Underhill Associates will contribute $2.8 million, with financing help from Republic Bank.
City officials have touted the project as the beginning of a potential revitalization of the New Cut Road corridor and a connector to Iroquois Park.
“It was once a place of pride, and then it got sketchy, and then it became an eyesore,” said Metro Council president David Yates, who grew up in the area.
Colonial Gardens “means something to the community,” he said.
Underhill Associates plans to renovate 7,000 square feet of existing space, demolish a 1939 building addition and construct two new one-story buildings on the property. The historic property will house three or four restaurant concepts with a large shared patio for seating and live music, Insider previously reported.
The company is in talks with potential restaurant operators, but no leases have been signed, Underhill said, because the development plan hasn’t received final approvals.
Councilwoman Marianne Butler, D-15, said the redevelopment will give people going to events at Iroquois Park and the amphitheater more options to eat out.
“We really appreciate this happening,” she said.
Underhill Associates will take ownership of Colonial Gardens from the city pending approval of a necessary conditional use permit. The permit is needed to “have an environment where people can enjoy a meal and enjoy an alcoholic beverage outside,” Underhill said.
Underhill Associates will host its first neighborhood meeting to answer questions and talk about the company’s plan at 6 p.m. Nov. 27 at Republic Bank, 5125 New Cut Road.
This story will be updated.