The Museum Plaza partners have notified state and local officials that recession and a stagnant economy have killed the planned 62-floor, $490 million project.

Laura Lee Brown, Steve Wilson, Craig Greenberg and Steve Poe have issued a statement that after four years “of the worst recession of our lifetime and most challenging lending market ever,” Museum Plaza won’t be built.

Though they were close, they stated, a “sensible” financing package is beyond reach.

The partners state the city did benefit from the star-crossed project, which struggled from the beginning with structural problems at the site at Sixth and Main streets.

A huge electric transmission tower was removed in preparation for construction, and four historic facades in the 600 block of West Main Street were stabilized and preserved, according to the release. Brown and Wilson are part of a group of investors who have bought part of the Whiskey Row buildings – from 111 W. Main St. to 119 W. Main – which will now be saved.

Here’s their release in full, courtesy of Peritus Public Relations:

Museum Plaza may be remembered by most as the story of a bold dream. To those of us on the development team, Museum Plaza will be remembered as a seven year journey that reinforced the power of teamwork, tenacity, and innovation. An iconic building will not be built, but we hope that we have laid a foundation for ourselves and others to realize the aspirations we pursued.

Through this process we have endured four years of the worst recession of our lifetime and the most challenging lending market ever. There are no signs of improvement in the near future. We were realistic, yet undaunted, as we pursued many financing options. A completed financing plan seemed within reach but even with all of the help from the public sector, in the end, we were not able to put together a sensible financing package. As much as our team wanted to make Museum Plaza a reality, as much as our team had already invested financially and emotionally in the project, we painfully decided that this project could not be built in this economy.

This effort showed what’s great about our city and state – the ability to work together and make a difference. We are fortunate to have elected leaders who can put partisanship aside to support progress and to have a business and labor community that can work together to make things happen. Our team owes a big thanks to the hundreds of people who worked with us on this project.

We can look back on some tangible things Museum Plaza and our team contributed to the City . . . the 10-story eyesore on our river front that was an electrical transmission tower was removed, four historic facades in the 600 block of West Main Street were stabilized and preserved, Whiskey Row is being saved, public contemporary art exhibits have begun to sprout up around our community, and the community’s focus on architecture is more focused than ever. But, more importantly, we are looking forward to the future. Our team remains committed to pursuing bold ideas to make our community better and we will use the lessons learned from Museum Plaza to make the next ones realities.

Here is the letter to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer from Craig Greenberg:

August 1, 2011

Dear Governor Beshear and Mayor Fisher:

I am writing on behalf of the Museum Plaza Development Team to formally notify you that we are ending our efforts to build Museum Plaza. As you well know, the economy changed drastically since we began this project and, as a result, putting together a sensible financing package has not been possible.

We want to thank you (and your respective predecessors in office) very much for all of your help and encouragement. Museum Plaza was a model public/private partnership and we look forward to working with you on future urban revitalization projects.

Governor, as a result of this decision, the Commonwealth should withdraw our pending application to HUD for the Section 108 Loan.

Mayor, as a result of this decision, our Development Agreement with Metro Louisville will terminate. Our development team has made significant improvements to the City’s land that was to be Museum Plaza. Most notably, we spent $15 million to reroute the underground transmission duct banks that rendered the site undevelopable and to remove the 10-story electrical transmission tower that was an eyesore on our skyline and to the view from the Science Center. And, we stabilized and preserved the four historic facades at 615 – 621 West Main Street, while removing the City’s crumbling buildings behind those facades (remember the tree growing out of the façade!). We plan to restore 7th Street between Washington Street and River Road so that it can be re-opened. We look forward to working with you and your administration to wrap up our activities and investment related to the site.

While we are disappointed with our decision, we are already looking to the future. Our team remains committed to pursuing bold ideas to make our community better and we will use the lessons learned from Museum Plaza to make the next ones realities.

Thank you again for your tireless and enthusiastic support for Museum Plaza every step of the way.

Sincerely,

Craig

Craig Greenberg

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4 thoughts on “Museum Plaza partners say ambitious skyscraper project can’t overcome recession, tight financial markets

  1. Museum Plaza would have certainly added an unexpected element to the skyline but the economics for this project did not add up before the recession. The real estate values in downtown Louisville do not justify building 62 stories up especially when there are hundreds of empty flat parking lots waiting for development. The only justification for building 40+ stories in downtown Louisville is for corporate identity and brand building. Furthermore, the presence of the outdated 1950s style elevated riverfront expressway makes developing the MP site particularly challenging. Hopefully the innovative thinking displayed by the MP builders can be expressed through multiple in-fill projects in downtown Louisville. A fitting substitute would be a Museum Of Modern ARCHitecture downtown.

  2. Maybe Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson could shift their focus to insuring that Louisville’s image defining gateway (Preston to 9th on the river) is not sullied by one of the world’s ugliest elevated waterfront expressways until the year 2120. Nothing will do more to harm our city’s ability to compete in the 21st century than the undemocratic, economically detrimental and socially unjust downtown Ohio River Bridge Project. Speak up for the silent super-majority. Prevent the biggest urban planning mistake of the 21st century. Divide the project, not the community. Build the east end bridge now, toll-free. Save Louisville.

  3. Museum Plaza would have certainly added an unexpected element to the skyline but the economics for this project did not add up before the recession. The real estate values in downtown Louisville do not justify building 62 stories up especially when there are hundreds of empty flat parking lots waiting for development. The only justification for building 40+ stories in downtown Louisville is for corporate identity and brand building. Furthermore, the presence of the outdated 1950s style elevated riverfront expressway makes developing the MP site particularly challenging. Hopefully the innovative thinking displayed by the MP builders can be expressed through multiple in-fill projects in downtown Louisville. A fitting substitute would be a Museum Of Modern ARCHitecture downtown.

  4. Maybe Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson could shift their focus to insuring that Louisville’s image defining gateway (Preston to 9th on the river) is not sullied by one of the world’s ugliest elevated waterfront expressways until the year 2120. Nothing will do more to harm our city’s ability to compete in the 21st century than the undemocratic, economically detrimental and socially unjust downtown Ohio River Bridge Project. Speak up for the silent super-majority. Prevent the biggest urban planning mistake of the 21st century. Divide the project, not the community. Build the east end bridge now, toll-free. Save Louisville.

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