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.
New apartments going in next door to the Louisville Palace
Correction: A previous version of the Theatre Building story included an incorrect first name for one of the partners. His name is Mack McNeley.
Workers are taking the top story of the Theatre Building down to the studs to make way for new apartments that will allow renters to live next door to the historic Louisville Palace.
The four-story building, at 625 S. Fourth St., has sat idle for about nine months as the new owners made plans for the property.
The majority of the 37,000-square-foot building was bought for about $1 million in March 2016 by MDM Development, a company owned by Donald Haunz, Matt Haunz and Mack McNeley.
All three have been involved in real estate in some way before, Matt Haunz told Insider Louisville, but this is their biggest project and first downtown.
“It just seemed to be the right time. I think the location was key for us — the fact that it was mixed use,” Haunz said. “It just feels like for a vibrant building in downtown.”
The property is commercial condominiums, meaning some of the spaces on the first, second and third floors remain owned and occupied by others. For that reason, the development group is focusing all of its efforts on renovating the fourth floor.
Haunz said they hoped to purchase some of the remaining condominium spaces as tenants’ leases come to an end and eventually expand the apartments development to the third floor. The first floor will always remain commercial space, but the fate of the second floor is up in the air, it may retain its commercial tenants or make the switch to residential in the future, he added.
In the immediate future, MDM Development plans spend $700,000 constructing seven apartments on the fourth floor and adding a modern workout room in the basement. The company hopes to start renting during the third quarter of 2017.
The fourth floor will have three one-bedroom and four two-bedroom units that will be fully equipped, including an in-unit washer and dryer, and feature modern finishes such as granite counters and hardwood flooring, Haunz said. The square footage of each will range from 850 square feet to 1,400 square feet.
“It’s not trying to be cutting edge, but it’s going to be very clean-lined, modern look and feel,” he said, noting that they haven’t set rental rates yet. Rates will cover not only the monthly rent but also all of the utility bills — electric, heat, water, etc.
The company also would like to build a rooftop gathering space for tenants; however, that has not been approved by the city.
According to county property records, the building was constructed in 1928, some five years after The Brown Hotel opened. Because of the building’s age and architectural attributes, the city considers it historic and requires MDM Development to go through a more rigorous project approval process to ensure the historic nature of the building is maintained.
The property is prime real estate downtown, being just across the street from the Kindred development and within walking distance of numerous shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. —Caitlin Bowling
Downtown New Albany apartment building starts leasing
Construction on a major apartment building in downtown New Albany will wrap up in the next few months.
The Breakwater, a 191-unit luxury apartment building at 411 E. Spring St., has been under construction for more than a year and recently started accepting leases. Monthly rental rates start at $780 for a 517-square-foot studio and go up to $,1670 for a 1,204-square-foot two-bedroom unit.
The first of three buildings was completed just before Christmas and already has nine tenants, with 13 more moving in this month, said Austin Carmony, a developer with Flaherty & Collins Properties, the company that built The Breakwater.
Flaherty and Collins Properties also has 11 leases signed for the second apartment building, which is expected to open for occupancy in April as construction crews are still finishing the exterior, painting and flooring.
“The property is looking good. Demand is strong,” Carmony said. “It’s working how we anticipated it, and we are bringing activity to downtown New Albany.”
The third building, which will open in less than a week, will house the “luxury resort-style amenities,” he said, including a fitness center and clubroom. The building formerly was the old Coyle showroom, which dates back to 1910.
The Breakwater is New Albany’s first large-scale apartment project downtown in recent history. Most apartments are nestled above business, in homes near downtown or are older, smaller complexes.
New Albany leaders see the project as a major step in the city’s development as the downtown continues its revival.
Flaherty & Collins is interested in developing more projects in the Louisville and Southern Indiana, but there’s nothing in the works right now, Carmony said. The company is “very interested in the area and always looking to do more development in such a strong area.” —Caitlin Bowling
Hillbilly Tea hosting ‘everything must go’ sale
Now that the restaurant has closed for good, Hillbilly Tea owner Karter Louis is looking to offload the tables, chairs, plates and decor that he’s accumulated over the years.
Louis is hosting a public sale from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14-15, at its most recent location, 106 W. Main St., according to a Facebook event.
“Over the years folks have tried to buy our furniture, our dishes, even our menus … take a piece of Hillbilly Tea home with you,” the Facebook event states.
IL broke the news at the end of the year that Hillbilly Tea had closed again.
“We feel like we just did not get off to a good start, and we did not achieve the level of excellence we wanted to achieve,” Louis told IL at the time.
Hillbilly Tea had reopened on Main Street in 2016 after closing its First Street location a year prior. Louis said that the Hillbilly Tea brand will remain as a line of loose leaf teas, but he will never run a Hillbilly Tea restaurant again. —Caitlin Bowling
SuperChefs reopens, Tom + Chee remains closed following maintenance problems
This past weekend, three Highlands restaurants — Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi, SuperChefs and Tom + Chee — closed their doors after a water pipe in their shared building burst causing flooding.
The pipe has been fixed, but not all three restaurants have reopened just yet. Tom + Chee remains closed for an indefinite period of time.
“Due to the impact of the needed repairs to the restaurant following the building maintenance issue, we do not have an ETA on the reopening of this location,” according to a Wednesday post on the Facebook page for Tom + Chee in the Highlands.
Calls to Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi went unanswered, so it is unclear if the sushi restaurant has reopened.
Meanwhile, SuperChefs has once again picked itself up. The superhero-themed restaurant reopened for business Wednesday.
“This minor setback is only setting me up for something even bigger,” chef and owner Darnell Ferguson said in a news release. “If I can’t handle the little obstacles like a busted pipe at one location, I may be blocking a blessing of multiple restaurants in several cities across the U.S. This is only a test to test my patience, and my team and I are up for the challenge.”
This is not the first tribulation for Ferguson. Around this time a year ago, SuperChefs, which was then located in St. Matthews, caught fire, and the building was destroyed. The restaurant reopened this past summer on Bardstown Road.
Next Tuesday, SuperChefs will host its first event for its new “STOP THE VIOLENCE” initiative. Each month, Ferguson will pick a day in which all the proceeds from restaurant sales will go to a nonprofit organization.
This month that day is Tuesday, Jan. 17. Proceeds will go to AMPED, an arts-based nonprofit that works with youth, particularly those in West Louisville. —Caitlin Bowling
Chef Space promises a new restaurant every 120 days
The Russell neighborhood incubator Chef Space is getting involved in the community in a new way starting this month.
The nonprofit Community Ventures opened the incubator as a way to help small food-related businesses get on their feet by renting out kitchen space and equipment, as well as a way to help bring new businesses into the Russell neighborhood. Now, Community Ventures is looking to highlight its renters with a concept called Jay’s 120, named partly after the building’s longtime tenant Jay’s Cafeteria.
As part of the initiative, a current or future Chef Space tenant will take over the small cafe area at the front of the building, 1812 W. Muhammad Boulevard, for 120 days. The initiative will allow them to test out fast-casual concepts on Louisville residents.
“We’re providing our members with an opportunity to serve food, run a restaurant, and give back to the community without the risk,” Chris Lavenson, president of Chef Space, said in a news release. “By providing them with all of the resources, Chef Space members can focus on crafting the best experience for their customers and developing efficient economic and business models.”
The first tenant to take over Jay’s 120 is Daddy Rich’s.
Daddy Rich’s will start serving food on Jan. 17 and will operate from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesdays and Sundays, for its 120-day turn. Its main menu item will be various flavored chicken wings.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Rodrick Martin, part owner of Daddy Rich’s, said in the release. “With Jay’s 120, we are going to be able to move out into the community with confidence, knowing that we’ve run our very own restaurant.” —Caitlin Bowling
Taco Steve reopens in New Albany
It turns out that Taco Steve didn’t stay closed for long.
The New Albany restaurant reopened at 604 E. Spring St. on Tuesday, less than a week after its owner Steve Powell announced that Taco Steve would close indefinitely.
Powell last week traveled to be with an ailing family member and at the time told IL that he wasn’t sure about the future of Taco Steve. However, this week, Powell messaged IL to say that Taco Steve was back.
University Hospital renovates psych unit
University of Louisville Hospital has moved and renovated its psychiatric unit to include more private rooms and an atrium that can be used for therapies.
The renovations cost $5 million and added nearly 4,500 square feet. The hospital moved the unit to the third floor of the university’s Ambulatory Care Building, which is across the street from the main hospital.
The hospital’s Inpatient Psychiatric Services Unit provides services including group therapy, substance abuse detoxification and electroconvulsive therapy to patients with disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis or depression.
“This new unit will give patients more privacy, in a supportive and calming atmosphere, where they will receive the help and guidance they need,” the hospital’s interim president, Charles Neumann, said in a press release.
Dr. David Casey, chair of the university’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, said the renovations would benefit both patients and their families.
“Support from family members can be crucial during this time,” he said, “and with our new family visitation room families will be able to see the progress their loved ones are making.”
The hospital will continue to provide emergency psychiatric services on the first floor of its main building.
KentuckyOne Health, which until this summer will jointly operate the hospital with the university, said patients would begin transferring to the new location the week of Jan. 16. —Boris Ladwig
Ford issues $200 million supplemental dividend, forecasts decline in U.S. domestic car market
Ford Motor Co. said this week that it would reward shareholders with a $200 million supplemental cash dividend based on a strong close to 2016.
The supplemental dividend, which is 5 cents per share, is in addition to the regular first-quarter dividend of 15 cents.
Ford CEO Mark Fields said Ford made significant progress in 2016, with 11 new products, including the Louisville-made Super Duty, contributing $1.2 billion to global funded pension plans and getting upgrades from ratings services S.&P., Moody’s, Fitch and DBRS.
Fields made the remarks at the Deutsche Bank Global Auto Industry Conference in Detroit.
The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker had said in early January that its retail sales for December were up 5 percent from a year earlier and that total U.S. sales, of 2.6 million vehicles, while up only fractionally from the prior year, were the best in a decade.
Part of the company’s retail sales increase is a result of the higher-than-average transaction price that Ford recorded in each of the four quarters of last year. In the fourth quarter, for example, Ford reported an average transaction price of about $35,000, or about $3,000 more than the industry average, the company said.
Ford said it wants to fortify profit pillars — truck, sports utility, performance — transform underperforming businesses — luxury, small vehicles, emerging markets — and take advantage of new opportunities in electric and autonomous vehicles.
Ford plans, for example, to offer hybrid versions of its popular F-150 pickup and its sports car, the Mustang.
While the company predicted that global demand for vehicles would increase about 2.2 percent annually in the next two years, it said that domestic volume would decline about 1.1 percent per year. —Boris Ladwig
Frazier History Museum plans $2 million renovation
In documents obtained from Louisville Metro Government, the Frazier History Museum has submitted applications for a $2 million renovation that would create two new entrances to its West Main Street location, as well as create a public park and outdoor venue and enhance the overall exterior of the museum.
If you’ve visited the Frazier recently, you might recall the somewhat confusing entrance that now loops you through the gift shop, instead of past the ticket counters. We’re assuming the new renovations and additional entrances will fix this situation and can only improve the quality experience the history museum offers.