Two days after Simmons College supporters held a rally condemning STAR BioEnergy’s alleged attempts to renege on a promise to donate a building to the college, the Indiana-based alternative energy company and Simmons president Rev. Kevin Cosby have struck an accord.
“I think we just got in a better setting to talk about it and understand where everyone was coming from,” Brian Zoeller, the Louisville attorney representing STAR BioEnergy, told Insider Louisville.
According to a news release, Simmons College and Kentucky State University will share the former Schenley Distillery building, located at 15th and Maple streets. Simmons College will use part of the building for classrooms and other educational purposes, while KSU will house the school’s aquaculture and hydroponics programs there.
“I would like to applaud STAR BioEnergy and Heaven Hill for the historic and transformational investment they are making to Simmons College,” Cosby said in the release. “This generous donation of property, worth in excess of $1.5 million, will greatly aid Simmons’ mission of providing quality education for some of our community’s most marginalized citizens.”
Tthe company will transfer ownership of the distillery to either Simmons College or Kentucky State University or an joint entity created by the two colleges, Zoeller said. Specific details were not discussed.
Donation of the building is contingent on STAR BioEnergy being able to construct a controversial $32 million anaerobic digester on the same property. The digester will take stillage from nearby Heaven Hill Distilleries as well as food waste from around the city and turn it into methane gas, which STAR BioEnergy will then sell for a profit.
Some opponents of the project said the building donation and other investments by STAR BioEnergy are a pay out intended to quash the opposition.
STAR BioEnergy is expected to go before the Louisville Board of Zoning Adjustment on Dec. 7. If it receives approvals for the digester, construction could start as early as the spring, meaning the digester would come online in late 2016, according to the release.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has agreed to help the colleges raise private donations to fund the renovation of the distillery building, which is on National Register of Historic Places.
“This agreement represents a significant investment in west Louisville, and I’m glad to see it moving along,” Fischer said in the release.
Along with news of the agreement, the release named three individuals who will be charged with selecting the board members who will oversee the West Louisville Community Benefits Fund. Over a period of 10 years, STAR BioEnergy and Heaven Hill have committed to investing $3.5 million in the fund that can then be used for education, job training, entrepreneurship and economic development efforts in the west end.
The three individuals are: Dana Johnson, director of giving and donor partnerships for the Community Foundation of Louisville; Louisville Metro Councilman David James, whose district includes the property where the digester will be built; and Kevin Fields, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Louisville Central Community Centers Inc.
Correction: A typographical error in the original version of this story indicated the incorrect period of time over which STAR BioEnergy will make payouts to the West Louisville Community Benefits Fund.