The Louisville Urban League’s plans focus on an indoor track and field facility. | Rendering by Reese Design Collaborative

The Louisville Urban League’s application to develop a $30 million track and field facility at the 24-acre Heritage West site left its competitors in the dust, according to a summary score sheet recently released by Louisville Metro Government.

Following a news conference on Friday to mark the signing of a development agreement between the city and the Urban League, Louisville Metro posted a copy of the development agreement, as well as sheet detailing how the Urban League and two competing development proposals ranked in eight categories.

A fourth development proposal, which suggested using the site for a food cooperative, was withdrawn from consideration before it was reviewed by a nine-person evaluation committee, said Cassia Herron, an urban planner leading the plans for a food cooperative in west Louisville, a food desert.

“It was premature,” she said in an email. “The organizing for the grocery store continues, and we have not yet come to a consensus about location. We used the Heritage West process to test interest in the location and to share with the community our plans to develop the grocery store.”

The remaining competing proposals called for acres of community gardens with other agriculture-based uses and biotechnology laboratories with community amenities. The three proposals were scored based on sustainability, economy, livability, connectivity, creativity, health, authenticity/identity and community priorities.

The biotech facility received the lowest score, 265 out of a possible 800. The community garden proposal ranked barely higher with a score of 280, and the Urban League scored a total of 600 points.

According to the score sheet, the evaluation committee — comprised of five Metro employees and four community leaders — had concerns about the ability of the development teams for the garden and biotech facility to bring the projects to fruition. In both cases, the committee cited the teams’ lack of experience and questioned their financing plans.

“There are concerns about the ability of the development team to execute on the proposal, as a result of many unanswered questions related to the proposal, the proposal’s overall breadth and cost, and the relative lack of experience of the development team in successfully completing projects of similar size, cost and quality,” the committee wrote regarding the biotech facility.

The Louisville Urban League will spearhead the development. | Courtesy of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

The Urban League proposal — which includes a 200-meter indoor track, a 400-meter outdoor track with a multisport infield, a 530-space parking lot and 20,000-square-feet of retail — received the highest scores of the three in each category.

“This project will create jobs, house small businesses, promote environmental sustainability, create public space and make Louisville a destination,” the committee wrote in the community priorities category. “The total project cost seems very attainable and seems correct for the proposed investment in the site. The development team has demonstrated a high level of capacity to identify funds needed to complete the project and has presented a well-developed, though high-level sources and uses of funds document.”

“There is no doubt among Committee members of the development team’s ability to complete the project, as project partners have completed similar or much larger projects of comparable types,” it continues. “This project will have very broad community impact, as this has the potential to be more than just a sports facility.”

The Urban League has partnered with veteran real estate developers Valle Jones and Tim Mulloy on the track and field project.

According to its application, the Urban League estimated that track and field related events, such as NCAA nationals, AAU events, USATF nationals and others, could bring 30,000 to 40,000 people to the Heritage West site each year. The facility could also be used for other sporting events, as well as public events for residents of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Also, released Friday was the signed development agreement between the Urban League and the city. Here are some key take-aways from that agreement:

  • The Urban League must submit plans for zoning approvals within 120 days from the date of the agreement, June 22.
  • Within 90 days of receiving the proper building permits, workers must begin construction.
  • The track and field facility and parking lot must be substantially complete by Dec. 31, 2020.
  • The Urban League will provide monthly updates detailing its progress starting at the end of September and going through the opening date for the facility.
  • Louisville Metro will contribute a total of $10.4 million toward the project, which includes a $10 million city bond, $350,000 in funds that were already dedicated to the site’s development and another $50,000 that will be approved during the fiscal year 2020 budget.

Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]