Welcome to the September 9 Monday Business Briefing.
This is your private business intelligence briefing, with Insider Louisville staff and contributors vetting tips collected during the past few days, hours and minutes before we post.
As we prepare for our Insider’s Meetup this afternoon at Vincenzo’s, we’ll have lots to discuss. Fate has intervened and we have not just scoops, but mega scoops.
Call this the “Louisville on a the verge of a major renaissance” edition of MBB, an antidote to all the negative reporting about hospital feuds and collapsing media. To paraphrase a number of developers we talked with this week, “This is the place, and now is the time.”
• We’ve been sitting on this story for months because we’re here to report the news, not upend deals. But after multiple conversations with insiders, we believe this project is more than far enough along to discuss. Underhill Associates plans to acquire the giant Goss Avenue Antique Mall building, all 300,000 square feet of it, and redevelop the complex as apartments, retail and restaurants. Maybe we’re making too much of this, but we see one of Louisville’s most successful developers (the Underhills created Westport Village out of a decrepit 1970s mall) doing a mega-project in an already thriving Louisville neighborhood.
We heard about the antique mall project as the Underhills began to acquire surrounding properties. But partner Jeff Underhill requested we delay reporting the project until the family firm lined up financing. We understand that financing now is in place, but Underhill said other details are not final, declining to comment. However, multiple sources told us the Underhills had meetings with antique mall vendors, which we consider putting the project in the public domain.
Those meetings led to multiple email tips such as this one:
Word on the streets is: The Goss Avenue Antique Mall will be shutting down in 2014 to make room for a project that will turn the neighborhood landmark into 100+ mixed housing units that will be spread out along all 3 floors, with some commercial space. Housing could be between $700-$1000+/mth for rent with some penthouse type spaces. (That’s what we heard). Rumor is: It may cost up to $15M to renovate the building and the grounds with some of the outer buildings being torn down. (A few antique dealers were talking about a meeting that they had in early September 2013). Lots of antique dealers looking for space. Big things happening on Goss Avenue.
Big things, indeed! From our discussions with Jeff Underhill, we believe the emails we’ve received describing the project are fairly accurate. And that this project could redefine another urban Louisville neighborhood, a neighborhood just south of downtown where housing already is sought after. Where restaurants are hot and civic centers and community institutions such as Sojourn Community Church are strong.
Our prediction: Everyone will be talking about this landmark project the same way they talk about NuLu, and likely with the same range of opinions. But we believe when you see developers ready to risk capital in underdeveloped areas, we know change is on its way.
• Speaking of NuLu, Portland – Gill Holland’s Next Frontier – has landed its first major business arrival. ARGO Networks is moving to the former Masonic Lodge building at 26th and Portland streets from Distillery Commons off Lexington Road. The 15-employee network consultant/management company will have twice as much space, said Founder and CEO Mike Neagle, moving to 6,000-square-feet in the 110-year-old historic building.
PRG Investments’ David Kern and Reed Weinberg brokered the deal for the seller. Dave Parks of Prudential Parks & Weisberg represented the seller, Stock Yards Bank & Trust Co.
We told you back in March that Gill Holland and the partners in Shine Contracting planned to raise and invest $22 million in Portland. Those plans are accelerating every day. But we are surprised the ARGO deal happened so quickly. We’ll have a full post on this later this morning.
• Depending on how Wayside Christian Mission plays its cards, this could become a liability or an asset.
The mission at 428 E. Jefferson St. is scheduled to go before the Louisville Metro Planning & Design Services this morning to request a variance for the the Jefferson Street location in order to build a six-story tower. Wayside will lose the west side of that property to the Downtown Bridge ramps including the portion of the existing building. So, they’re taking that compensation and adding to the site vertically, proposing the tower.
Our sources said the proposed tower would be for a men’s emergency shelter and have as many as 600 beds, which opponents say is too dense. We called Nina Moseley, who runs the shelter with her husband Tim Moseley, for clarification on what exactly the plans are.
Phil Miller, Louisville deputy director of Communications, told us Friday it’s the understanding of city officials that Wayside would offer the same level of services to the same number of residents, just in a different configuration. Our sources’ biggest concern is Wayside might elect to build a mega-shelter just one block south of the new Nucleus Innovation Center at Market and Floyd streets, just as the area is primed for redevelopment, with a $13 million streetscape project. That, and the project is right next to Liberty Green, the new mixed-income housing project.
Considering Wayside moved in 2007 to make way for NuLu, we found it ironic the mission may yet stymie redevelopment in the area. Replied one of our sources, “You know, I’m really done with the irony when it comes to this situation.”
• There has never been a year like this for local media. It started with the announcement businessmen David Jones, Jr. and Ed Hart were contributing about $500,000 to fund Louisville Public Media’s new investigative reporting center. Then, a stream of Courier-Journal reporters, including Chris Otts, left the CJ for more stable employment. This week, Otts and two CJ veterans – Marcus Green and Jason Riley – ended up at WDRB TV, where Bill Lamb is in the process of building a digital news appendage to the Fox station.
Just when we thought there might be a lull in the action, a number of sources sent us a post from Current.org, the online journalism blog of American University School of Education in Washington, DC. This post lays out a developing effort by Kentucky public radio stations to create a statewide network.
From the post:
Leaders of Kentucky’s public radio stations are considering how they might collaborate and consolidate operations, with a goal of cutting costs and boosting reporting on local and regional issues.
Six of Kentucky’s seven public radio stations have enlisted Public Radio Capital to assess benefits of closer collaboration and to help advance the process if all agree to move ahead. Universities hold licenses to five of the stations and may need to join future negotiations as well.
The Courier-Journal’s response to this will be determined by its McLean, Va.-based corporate master, Gannett Co. Inc. Multiple sources this week sent us this Gannett Blog item about the coming Butterfly Project, in which Gannett executives plan to add even more USA Today news content to its community newspapers, including the CJ. Top editors from Gannett papers met in Louisville last month to work out the final details.
Our sources say the Courier-Journal will be one of the first five Gannett dailies to be a Butterfly Project test bed.
• This could be a huge deal. Louisville-based pharma startup Regenerex, which is part of the Nucleus cadre of bio-medical companies, has signed a global licensing and research agreement with Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis. From what we could divine from an extremely jargon-laden news release, Novartis will use its global reach and resources to develop and market Regenerex’s cell therapy regime. That regime helps patients survive without the need for lifelong immunosuppression.
From that release:
Beyond transplant, Regenerex’s novel platform potentially has curative potential for multiple underserved diseases and will be investigated in the rescue of serious genetic deficiencies such as inherited metabolic storage disorders and hemoglobinopathies.
In researching via Google how big a deal this is, we figured out all this goes back to star University of Louisville researcher Dr. Suzanne Ilstad’s research and a U.S. Food and Drug Administration application she filed back in 2002.
It’s taken a while, but clearly that research now has market potential promising enough for Bloomberg to post about it Friday:
Regenerex’s technology allowed five of eight kidney transplant patients to stop taking about a dozen pills a day to suppress their immune systems, according to research published last year. The pills, which prevent rejection and stop tissue from a donated kidney from attacking the patient, can damage the transplant and cause diabetes, infections, heart disease and cancer.
“With the global licensing agreement with Regenerex, Novartis gains access to stem cell technology, which can be used in the areas of cancer and transplantation,” Andrew Weiss, an analyst with Bank Vontobel AG in Zurich, said in a note to clients today. “Novartis gains further expertise in this area.”
More as soon as we can get one of our medical sources to translate, and U of L officials to elaborate.
• Finally, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls …. you didn’t think you’d get out of here without getting some nugget of news related to the ongoing Norton Healthcare/University of Louisville feud over the downtown Kosair Children’s Hospital, did you?
An ever-vigilant insider sent us a “hiding in plain sight” hint at where this dispute over who’ll control pediatric medicine in Louisville is headed. We say “hiding in plain sight” because it’s all here at the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Service’s data base listing certificate of need applications.
From our source:
UL has submitted a certificate of need to upgrade the UL neonatal intensive care unit to have level IV beds. Currently the only level IV beds in Kentucky are at Kosair Children’s Hospital and the University of Kentucky’s Children’s Hospital.
There are 4 levels of NICUs:
I – basic newborn care
II – infants older than 32 weeks or more than 1.5 kilograms, moderately ill
III-any sized infant, severely ill and small but no surgery and not comprehensive sub-specialities.
IV-complete advanced neonatal care. Any size infant, all sub-specialties, advanced procedures, cardiovascular surgery of infants.
This is important because:
1. New state regulations require all level III units and level II units to pair with a level IV unit.
2. This puts UL into direct competition with Kosair in what Dr. David Dunn has described as the lucrative aspect of what pediatric care. (Said our source, “Neonatology is the college basketball of pediatrics: It usually supports other loss leaders within the pediatric division.”)
3. This will require a MAJOR investment by UL. They will need to staff the hospital with 24/7 in-house neonatologists. They will need pediatric operating rooms. They will need lots of new/high tech equipment.
This is a multi-million dollar investment.
Which certainly gives us a bit more granularity about the concerns over a management pact between UK and Norton. Interesting, said our source, that Norton executives haven’t mentioned this. Do they know?