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.

Rundown apartment building along Bardstown Road finds new owner

The apartment building sold for $1.1 million. | Courtesy of Jefferson PVA
The apartment building sold for $1.1 million. | Courtesy of Jefferson PVA

Real estate developers Ashley Blacketer and Chad Middendorf bought the 33-unit downtrodden apartment complex that sits next to Big Bar on Bardstown Road.

The business partners bought the land and nearly 17,000-square-foot building for $1.1 million under the name Barrel House Investments. Louisville real estate firm Gant Hill & Associates represented them in the purchase.

They have plans to renovate the apartments and re-lease them.

Here’s a quick refresher on the property: IL reported in February that the site located at 1204 Bardstown Road was under contract to be purchased from former owner Bailey Property Management. The management company has owned the apartment building since the 1990s, and the building is in serious need of upgrades, according to Bailey Property Management’s operations manager Tim Powers.

Middendorf told IL that he and Blacketer plan to make upgrades, but it’s too early to say how extensive the renovations will be or how much they will cost since they are still meeting with contractors.

“We are studying what to do with it,” he said. “It’s a great location, and we think it will be a great project.”

The apartments will be a similar caliber to Flats on Frankfort, a 40-unit apartment building the Clifton neighborhood. Like the Bardstown Road building, the Flats on Frankfort property was in disrepair when Blacketer and Gant Hill, owner of Gant Hill & Associates, bought and renovated it.

The Flats on Frankfort feature granite countertops, custom cabinetry, hardwood floors, updated appliance, on-site laundry and a parking lot. The renovations were completed using some reclaimed materials.

Middendorf again added that all aspects of the Bardstown Road remodel are preliminary. “Currently, that is the plan, but nothing is definite.” —Caitlin Bowling

VIA Studio to do pro bono branding work for Kentucky Refugee Ministries

VIA-Studio-LogosquareKentucky Refugee Ministries participated in this year’s Ignite Louisville program as one of six charities outfitted with a team of local leaders to help them address internal needs pro bono. KRM told the team they needed a new website, and the team contracted with VIA Studio to produce it.

VIA Studio VP Kim Clark said it became clear after a few meetings that KRM had “outgrown their brand.”

“We, as an internal team, agreed that the organization would see the most impact … if we could spend a few extra weeks putting them through our branding program before we delve into a development project,” said Clark.

“They (KRM) didn’t have the budget, but it was something we at VIA thought was super important so we offered to donate it to them if they would push back their development timeline so we could properly address the larger identity issue,” she said. “Going this route will allow us to really develop a website that truly speaks of who they are and what they do. They’re such a wonderful organization.”

The pro bono work is valued at close to $10,000.

The Leadership Louisville Center sponsors Ignite Louisville, a seven-month professional development program with a focus on assisting local nonprofits. The Ignite Louisville team that partnered with Kentucky Refugee Ministries tied for first place in the recent Ignite Louisville Challenge. —Melissa Chipman

Homes sales for first quarter rose 15. 1 percent

GLARThe Greater Louisville Association of Realtors has released the Louisville area’s home sales numbers for the first three months of 2016, and it’s good news.

Although inventory remains low, home sales increased 15.1 percent to 3,382 houses and condominiums, and the average home prices went up 1.1 percent. In March alone, the average home price was $175,630, according to GLAR.

“The sellers’ market is continuing in Louisville with inventory down in some areas over 20 percent compared to last year,” GLAR President Greg Taylor said in a news release. “This has also led to some fluctuations in the month to month statistics, but in general, our members are seeing steady single-digit appreciation gains versus last year.” —Caitlin Bowling

The Fun has left the Mountain

Ribbon-cutting at Funtown Mountain | Photo by Melissa Chipman
Ribbon-cutting at Funtown Mountain | Photo by Melissa Chipman

Funtown Mountain was auctioned off to the highest bidder on Wednesday, bringing to a close an emotional saga of highs and lows. The vacant roadside attraction in Cave City, Ky. was bought by David Ray Froggett Jr. in partnership with Gateway Development based in Chicago.

According to WBKO, “Froggett has lived in Green and Metcalfe counties his entire life. He recently acquired 99.1 The Hoss, a radio station based in Edmonton. He and his wife, Vikki, own Froggett’s South 65 Entertainment in Cave City. They plan to add both entities to the new property.”

The property was divided into two parcels for the auction: the lower half and the parcel on top of the “mountain.” Froggett bid for the bottom half at $200,000 and was the high bidder on the top half at $95,000.

In early 2015, Louisville entrepreneur Will Russell, who owned two Why Louisville stores and co-founded Lewbowski Fest, bought the former Guntown Mountain, which included a haunted house, a souvenir store, and on top of the mountain — accessible by chair lift — a Wild West attraction. Russell intended to turn it into a pop culture museum and entertainment venue. I tagged along with him to the Mountain just before he closed on the sale and heard all of Russell’s big plans.

The souvenir store and haunted house opened in June, but soon things went off the rails. Russell, in a very public fashion, struggled with addiction and his bi-polar disorder. He was arrested in July for marijuana possession, menacing and resisting arrest. He was arrested again and held for a mental health evaluation. He defaced parts of Funtown Mountain and posted cryptic messages to social media.

Eventually the park closed; then Russell’s two WHY Louisville stores closed. Russell sought inpatient treatment and has been laying low ever since.

“Everyone was let down and saddened by the, if you would, fiasco, that — you know, people were expecting something — the wow factor when they got here. And when they got here, it was far from the wow factor. I think people were really let down,” Froggett told WBKO.

Froggett’s plans for the attraction, which he said will be named Mammoth Cave Mountain, include: cabins, an indoor/outdoor water park, amusement park, restaurant, Kentucky artisan vendors, music entertainment, a zip-line, and the signature ski-lift. He envisions investing up to $20 million in the property over time, with an initial investment of $5 million in the first year. That’s a pretty tall order for a roadside attraction. —Melissa Chipman

Downtown grocery store up for auction next month

First Link Discount Store is up for auction. | Courtesy of Jefferson County PVA
First Link Discount Foods is up for auction. | Courtesy of Jefferson County PVA

At 10 a.m. on *May 18, low-priced downtown First Link Discount Foods will hit the auction block.

Located at 431 E. Liberty St., the family-owned grocery store and USDA-approved meatpacking facility went on the market last year, with the owner Bruce Silverman asking $8.9 million.

He told IL back then: “It’s not fun anymore.”

First Link Discount Grocery has operated in Louisville since 1943, and the Liberty Street store opened 30 years ago.

A year later, it seems Silverman did not get the offer he was looking for, and the 1.4-acre property has been listed on Keyauctioneers.com. No starting price is listed; however, bidders must make a $250,000 down payment the day of the sale and pay a 10 percent deposit within three days.

According to the listing, the store is 47,700 square feet, with 18,000 square feet of refrigerated floor space and seven bathrooms. The assessed value is $1.83 million.

The store is a few blocks from the burgeoning NuLu neighborhood, the University of Louisville Health Sciences Campus and the new apartment complexes 310 @ NuLu and The Edge.

And the neighborhood is only going to grow. Prominent developer Bill Weyland has committed to developing apartments in the former Louisville Chemical Building and a Home2 Suites at Liberty and Jefferson streets. Weyland’s also hinted that he plans to invest in more development in that area.

It will be interesting to see who scoops up the potentially valuable property and if it remains a grocery store or is transformed into something else entirely. —Caitlin Bowling

*Correction: The original version of this post listed the wrong date for the auction of First Link Discount Foods; the downtown grocery hits the auction block on May 18.

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