How good a year has 2013 been for Louisville, especially downtown?

As Tony the  Tiger used to say, “Grrrrr-eat.”

There were at least a dozen big projects announced this year, including two downtown hotels, a music venue, the retrofitting of the strategically crucial Stewart’s building, and a refreshed and expanded Kentucky Kingdom.

Will they all happen? Who knows …. Already, Angel’s Envy’s big July announcement has faded quietly away with no signs of construction at the Main Street property.

But the rest, if not all, of the projects are well capitalized deals proposed by developers with long track records.

And before we forget, we had our first urban bourbon distillery actually open. Which we’re counting for 2013 even though the project began in earnest in 2012.

Can we put a number on all the activity?

In fact, it is somewhat quantifiable under the “our best guess” methodology — if you count all the “maybes,” we get somewhere north of $300 million going into 2015 for projects announced so far this year, started or actually completed.

Not bad.

Here’s a quick and dirty list of the biggies ….

The renovated Guthrie-Coke Building at Fourth and Chestnut.

• CITY Property managing partner Bill Weyland controls (most of) the corner of Fourth and Chestnut streets, so this is a three-for.

On the northwest corner, Weyland renovated the Guthrie-Coke building into the headquarters for the Volunteers of America on the ground floor and three floors of apartments above. Weyland never gave a number for the value for the 38,000-square-foot project, but we’ll estimate at least $10 million — the national average of $200 per square foot for construction costs plus the $1.2 million purchase price.

On the southwest corner, Weyland is leading the partnership to build the eight-story, 162-room Hilton Garden Inn Hotel, a $22 million project.

Next door to the under-construction hotel, Weyland owns the Wright-Taylor Building, where Los Angeles-based Live Nation is planning a new music venue, an expansion of their Palace Theatre. That’s another project no one was willing to assign a value to. At 16,000 square feet, we’re guessing $3.2 million not including the purchase price of the building.


• Steve Poe’s Poe Companies made arguably the biggest splash this year with his announcement of the upscale Aloft Hotel at First and Main streets, across from Whiskey Row. The price tag? A cool $25 million.

Poe Companies also broke ground on an addition at RiverPark Place, his apartment/condo complex next to Riverfront Park on River Road. RiverPark Place will add 162 more apartments to the 167 existing units, a project he values at about $23 million.

• Mary Moseley announced this year she would save the day on several projects, most notably the conversion of the Stewart’s Dry Goods/Hilliard-Lyons Center at Fourth and Muhammad Ali Boulevard into an Embassy Suites hotel and retail.

The number $80 million keeps popping up for that project, though we’ve never heard it from the source.

Moseley, president and CEO of Al J. Schneider Co., which owns a number of hotels including the giant Galt House complex, also jumped into the partnership that’s investing in Kentucky Kingdom. Kentucky Kingdom financials — from the “bank loan” they announced they were getting to fund the $45 million project to the $60 memberships — have never added up for us. (Can revenue from cheap passes service expensive debt?) But for the sake of argument, let’s say this happens.

Evan_Williams_Bourbon_Experience_Downtown_Louisivlle-1024x556Evan Williams Experience at Sixth and Main streets. Credit the Shapiras and their Heaven Hill distillery with a major coup, getting this multi-floor, multi-display urban bourbon attraction open Nov. 15. The company assigned a $10 million value to it. We’d guess way more just because of the quality of the tenant finish, the elaborate still and the digital displays. But, let’s go with $10 million.

• We broke the story that Underhill Associates plan to convert the Goss Avenue Antique Mall into 200 apartments. The Underhills have never revealed their prospective investment, but at 250,000 square feet on 8 acres, this would come out to a minimum of $30 million and probably closer to $40 million.

• Columbus, Ohio-based Lifestyles Community is building 360 apartments in Phase One of the Idlewild, a resort-style complex in far eastern Jefferson County, a project representing a $30 million to $40 million dollar investment.

Nucleus Building, from XLerate Health website
Nucleus Building

• The University of Louisville is the new spec office space giant, adding several hundred thousand square feet of office space, including the 200,000-square-foot Nucleus building at Floyd and Market streets.

Of course, it’s a matter of perspective whether Nucleus is an asset for downtown at a time when downtown vacancy rates are 16 percent. If you’re not a nonprofit, untaxed, state-owned real estate company, but rather you actually work for a living … that may color your opinion on U of L.

Also, U of L and NTS opened 600 N. Hurstbourne Pkwy. in ShelbyHurst, with 125,000 square feet of spec office space. Your tax dollars at work to the tune of $40 million-plus.

IL will have more detail tomorrow on all the new apartment complexes proposed or under construction.

When you have so much going on in just one segment of real estate that you have to break it out in a separate post, you know it’s a good year!

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Terry Boyd
Terry Boyd has seven years experience as a business/finance journalist, and eight years a military reporter with European Stars and Stripes. As a banking and finance reporter at Business First, Boyd dealt directly with the most influential executives and financiers in Louisville.

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