Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.
River Ridge ready to take over additional 46.5 acres of land
After a disagreement with the U.S. Army earlier this year, River Ridge Development Authority expects to finally take ownership of 46.5 acres of land at River Ridge Commerce Center in Jeffersonville within the next month.
The River Ridge Commerce Center is 6,000 acres, but not all those acres are currently under the control of the development authority, a government-appointed oversight board.
During the past 17 years, the U.S. Army, which formerly operated the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant there, has slowly transferred the acreage to the River Ridge Development Authority. However, there are still a few hundred acres outstanding, pending the Army deeming them free of harmful chemicals or explosives.
Back in the first quarter of this year, the Army was supposed to give the 46.5 acres that includes several landfills to the River Ridge Development Authority. However, the board refused because of the landfill caps, a layer of material such as soil, asphalt or clay that covers the waste.
“The landfill caps needed some repairs, and River Ridge did not want to take the title,” said Carl Horneman, an attorney with Wyatt Tarrant & Combs LLP representing River Ridge.
River Ridge authorities wanted guarantees that the Army would make the fixes before taking over the property and take responsibility for paying for any repairs, he said.
At its most recent monthly meeting, the board heard from U.S. Sen. Jon Donnelly, D-Ind., who’s been negotiating with the U.S. Army on River Ridge’s behalf. “I am optimistic we are very close to a final agreement,” Donnelly said. “My top priority is getting you everything you need from the Army.”
In their spare time, Humana employees create app for travelers
For around a year and a half now, four co-workers from Humana have been meeting for a couple of hours every Sunday working on a side business. Just this month, they launched their first app in the Apple Store: CrossPaths is an app for travelers that allows them to plan to meet up with friends at an airport if they have time to kill.
In the “private” mode, CrossPaths integrates with Facebook. It lets you input your flight information in advance of your travel, and then it lets you know if any of your Facebook friends who also use the app are going to be in the same airport as you at around the same time. In the “public” mode it tells you everyone who uses the app who share flight stops and layovers.
Imagine going on a business trip to L.A. with a layover at O’Hare. Maybe a high school classmate has a layover at around the same time you do. Usually you’d never know it unless by chance you bumped into each other. But if you see on CrossPaths that you’ll literally cross paths, you can email her in advance and ask if she wants to get drinks and shoot the breeze. Maybe an old ex is landing in L.A. around the time you are. You can plan to get drinks before going your separate ways. Maybe share a ride. Or maybe purposely avoid him.
The team is Shivang Patel, Emir Tenic, Roger Bodenbender and Phil Dossett. Together they developed the back end of the app. They worked with Interapt to design it. Right now the app is still in the MVP stage, but it is available and they’re continuing to meet every Sunday to work on it.
IL sat down with Patel and Dossett earlier this week to learn about the app and hear about their future plans. Patel first conceived of the app a couple of years ago. His family is in India, and he travels their frequently. These trips are ungodly long, sometimes as much as 30 hours with layovers. But one time, he brought a friend with him to India, and while it was still a lot of travel, it didn’t feel as awful. So he thought, what if people could actually enjoy layovers?
Within the next week or so, the team plans to launch an IndieGoGo campaign with the goal of raising around $30,000. Up until this point, all of the work has been self-funded.
The goal, they think, is to eventually partner with a third party — likely some kind of travel site like Travelocity or Expedia. Next steps involve working on adding chat capabilities to the app and maybe extend its use to passengers on trains and subways.
Watch their video on Facebook. —Melissa Chipman
Mercy Academy president makes case for Broadway apartment complex
Longtime Mercy Academy president Mike Johnson stood up at a recent community meeting to talk about why the school’s leaders think a proposed four-story apartment complex is a good fit to fill the Catholic school’s former property.
Mercy Academy left 1176 E. Broadway in 2007 for a new campus on Fegenbush Lane. For years, the school has tried to sell the property and even had a couple bites. However, nearby residents were not so fond of the possibility of having a rehabilitation center or a homeless shelter in their neighborhood.
“I learned a lot that I never really wanted to learn about commercial real estate,” Johnson said.
Mercy is hoping to finally offload the property. The latest suitor is Edwards Communities Development Co., a subsidiary of Columbus-based apartment development and management company Edwards Cos. The company plans to demolish the school and construct a $30 million, 195-unit apartment complex.
The apartments will range from 420-square-foot studios to 1,300-square-foot two bedroom, two bath apartments. Rent likely will start at $1,000 a month for a 750-square-foot one-bedroom.
They also have an option to purchase the parking garage next to the old Mercy Academy to use for tenant parking. The company will lease spots to Kindred Hospital and the medical offices next door as well as add 50 parking spots.
“They just have the capacity to have all the odd pieces come together,” Johnson said. The Edwards Communities project will “bring it new life again.”
First however, the city needs to approve a development plan and several variances and waivers for the project, which needs community support to move forward.
The height of the building turned off at least one of the 15 residents of the Original Highlands who attended the meeting earlier this week.
But representatives with Edwards Communities said the four stories were in line with the height of the parking garage, Kindred building and nearby Breckinridge Metropolitan High School, which sits on a hill.
A sidewalk entrance into the complex’s two-story atrium and three stories of brick will give it an urban design, they said. The building also will feature beaded vinyl siding.
Some residents wondered why Edwards Communities had to demolish the Mercy building, but Johnson said, and the developers agree, that renovating the existing building is limiting. Mercy moved out of the building because it had run out of ways to make the layout work, he said.
“We had just done everything we could,” said Johnson, assuring meeting attendees that Mercy planned to take some of the limestone from the building façade and re-purpose it at the new campus.
Residents also expressed concern that Edward Communities was building the apartments only to sell them off. John Wood, vice president of capital markets at Edwards Cos., said the company has no plans to build and dash.
If plans are approved for the apartments, construction would take about 18 months. The company hopes to start in March.
Edwards Communities, it should be noted, also plans to develop another apartment building just down the road at Broadway and Baxter Avenue.
New Albany clothing shop to open expanded store
Dress & Dwell Boutique will have a re-opening of sorts next week.
The upscale clothing shop, located at 138 E. Spring St. in New Albany, hasn’t closed, but it did double its space by connecting its existing store to a 2,000-square-foot space just next door.
“We had grown out of the space,” said Amanda Gibson, founder of Dress & Dwell. And “our customers want to see more products.”
In addition to the women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry and gift items Dress & Dwell already carries, the addition will carry workout clothes, home decor and baby gifts such as diaper bags and swaddling blankets.
New brands include Caitlin Wilson, Barefoot Dreams and Little Unicorn.
Many of Dress & Dwell’s customers are moms with young children, said Gibson, who recently gave birth herself.
The expansion fills a hole left by another boutique, Colokial, which moved a couple blocks away to 219 Pearl St. this spring.
Dress & Dwell spent the summer renovating the space, adding new decor, repainting, and re-doing the ceiling.
Con Huevos introduces online ordering, looking for new location
Mexican breakfast and lunch restaurant Con Huevos has some of the hottest seats in town.
One, there are only 24 of them, and two, the food is damned delicious.
Luckily, there is now another alternative to waiting for a seat to open up or foregoing Con Huevos breakfast altogether: The restaurant has started taking online orders for pick-up.
Owner Izmene Peredo said she always planned to offer online ordering at Con Huevos but wanted to make sure things were running smoothly with the restaurant first. Con Huevos opened in March of this year.
“We are more ready with the kitchen,” Peredo said. “We know more what the customer wants.”
Pick-up orders take about 15 minutes to prepare during the week and 20 minutes on the weekends. Customers can order here.
So far, customer reaction has been positive, she said.
“They are really happy because they tell me they can’t have a spot here on the weekends,” said Peredo, adding that she expects revenues to increase 10 percent because of online ordering.
Although she declined to give specific figures, Peredo said the business will end the year well above the estimated $400,000 in revenue she anticipated.
While online ordering will alleviate some of the problem — if you can call having too many customers a problem — another potential remedy is a second location.
Peredo currently is looking around Louisville as well as in Cincinnati and Nashville trying to find a spot for her second Con Huevos store. Right now, she is doing her research.
Anaylst to Yum: Break up your business
Louisville-based Yum! Brands’ stock is underperforming, so says analyst Jason West of Credit Suisse in a recent report.
West said Yum! Brands’ rapid expansion in China will only exacerbate existing problems, including food safety concerns, limited price inflation and increasing competition, according to an article on financial news outlet Benzinga.
To help, West said the company should break its Chinese operations off from the rest of its operations, which he suggested Yum! would be reluctant to do.
Multiple analysts have previously stated that Yum’s annual performance is heavily dependent on its performance in China.
In related news, Yum! Brands added Target CEO Brian Cornell to its board of directors. Retail analysts said the move is very strategic, according to financial markets website Seeking Alpha.
Under Cornell’s leadership, the popular retail store secured a $1.9 billion deal earlier this year in which CVS/Health will take over Target’s in-store pharmacy and clinics. He also oversaw the closure of all Canada’s Target stores.
In other local fast-food company news… Papa John’s International Inc. added a new member to its board of directors: Sonya E. Medina. Medina is a government and public affairs strategist, according to a release from Papa John’s. She previously was vice president of community and external affairs for Silver Eagle Distributors, the United States’ largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products. —Caitlin Bowling
Buffalo Trace releases new experimental bourbon: 13-year-old Sour Mash
Harlen Wheatley, master distiller at Buffalo Trace, is known for his many experiments with aging and making bourbon. In fact, a few years back, he built Warehouse X, a one-of-a-kind experimental rick house that can tweak temperature, sun light and many other variables throughout the barrel aging process. Just this week, Buffalo Trace released its latest innovative bourbon: a 13-year-old sour mash experiment.
The idea behind the release was to use an old-fashioned process of souring the mash. After the mash was cooked and cooled to standard, it was then allowed to “sour” before yeast was added to begin fermentation. After it was distilled, it entered barrels at two proof levels 105 and 125, and then aged for 13 years. The two releases are said to be vastly different, with the 105 proof exuding a light body and semi-sweet tasting notes, while the 125 proof is more spicy and medium flavored. Both were bottled at 90 proof in 375ml bottles, which retail for $46.
We look forward to tasting many more experiments that come out of Buffalo Trace. —Sara Havens