(Editor’s note: This post was updated with new information at 3:20 p.m. on Thur., Sept. 26.)
Yesterday, we profiled developer Bill Weyland as the person who changed Louisville’s trajectory.
Today, Weyland, managing partner of CITY Properties Group, put two more notches on his downtown redevelopment belt. He, his Chicago-based partner in the new Hilton Garden Inn hotel at Fourth and Chestnut streets, an executive from The Louisville Palace Theatre owner Live Nation and local officials stood in front of the assembled masses at Fourth and Chestnut to talk about the new hotel and a new Fourth Street music venue in the Wright-Taylor Building next door. Of the two, the hotel is physically and financially the bigger deal. But Metro Mayor Greg Fischer devoted a majority of his remarks talking about the energy the concert hall could bring to that stretch of Fourth Street, a section of downtown economic development officials have targeted for redevelopment for years. “It’s happening man!” Fischer said to Weyland at one point. “It’s awesome!” Weyland and Stephen Schwartz, CEO with hotel developer/owner/operator Chicago-based First Hospitality Group, gave more details about the 8-floor, 162-room Hilton Garden Inn, announced earlier this year. Weyland, architect for the project, revealed there will be two connectors between the hotel and his The Henry Clay building next door, which hosts weddings and private parties. The Henry Clay, at 604 S. Third St., also has apartments and The Bunbury Theater. He noted the Henry Clay events spaces hosts 270 events including weddings, receptions and corporate parties each year. Now, with the hotel, “that will only be enhanced,” he said. But the major feature of the Hilton Garden Inn will be a 14,000-square-foot, open-air restaurant on the top floor, with panoramic views of downtown, Weyland and Schwartz said. For some perspective, one of the largest downtown restaurants, Marketplace Restaurant at Theatre Square about three blocks south at 651 S. Fourth St., has about 8,000 square feet exclusive of outdoor seating. The price tag for the 122,000-square-foot hotel? About $22 million, Schwartz said, with the construction scheduled to be complete by October 2014. The Hilton Garden Inn will be the first new hotel in Louisville since 21C Museum Hotel opened at Seventh and Main streets in 2006. Before the Hilton opens, Live Nation – a publicly traded music production giant based in Los Angeles – will have converted the historic Wright-Taylor Building into a House of Blues live music venue, scheduled to open next spring. The new concert hall will be part of Live Nation’s House of Blues Entertainment subsidiary, but will not be branded as a House of Blues, said David Bartlett, Palace general manager. House of Blues are considerably larger than the Wright-Taylor Building, and have a restaurant in addition to performance areas, Bartlett said. House of Blues operates clubs in 13 markets including Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas and Boston. Live Nation also operates venues under the Fillmore brand. But the Louisville facility likely won’t be branded as either, Bartlett said, with the name to be announced later. The Live Nation Louisville venue will host local, regional and national acts, said Michael Grozier, Live Nation executive vice president of Clubs and Theaters. “He’s a tenacious individual. He wouldn’t allow us not to come to Louisville,” Grozier said of Weyland. Live Nation employees handed out a brochure on the Louisville project stating the venue will have: • a capacity of 900 people • 16,000 square feet on two floors • a stage 39 feet wide and 19 feet deep. • state of the art sound and lighting Nationwide, Live Nation controls 75 venues, putting on more than 7,000 shows for 6.5 million people during 2013, according to Grozier. In Louisville, that includes The Louisville Palace two doors south of the Wright-Taylor Building. Grozier added that Live Nation also booked major national acts at KFC Yum! Center this year, including Bruce Springsteen and Kid Rock. Live Nation executives forecast the new House of Blues will draw 100,000 people the first year, he said. Fischer noted that more groups and conventions are coming to Louisville at the same time its restaurant scene is getting national attention, “but there’s not sufficient (room) capacity.” The addition of the hotel and the music hall means Louisville has more “distinctive places for people who are coming to Louisville with high expectations.” The task now is to extend the Fourth Street revival from downtown into Old Louisville and past the University of Louisville to the Churchill Downs area, Fischer said. Fischer also revealed a few bits of new, including that officials at the Kentucky School of Art at Spalding University plans increased enrollment to 500 students from 200. Fischer also mentioned a project to address “dead space” on Industry Road on the east side of the U of L’s Belknap Campus, but did not elaborate. He added that Louisville needs more “believers” in Louisville’s urban renaissance. In the purchase of both the Henry Clay, which was an abandoned YWCA, and the Wright-Taylor Building in 2005, Fischer credited Weyland for “making courageous moves that turned out in retrospect to be really smart moves.” CITY Properties renovated the Wright-Taylor Building in 2007, but it has remained vacant for five years. Weyland has more than a half-dozen downtown projects to his credit – restorations of historic buildings and new construction – including the Henry Clay, the Slugger Museum and the new ZirMed Tower.