There’s no doubt that Louisville, particularly downtown, is changing. In 2017, new apartment buildings, offices and hotels opened, and this year, two major downtown projects — the 30-story Omni Louisville and $207 million Kentucky International Convention Center renovation — will wrap up.
It seems as if more investment is coming into Louisville than ever. While it’s hard to say if that is true or not, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has repeatedly touted that there are billions of dollars being invested in new developments in the city.
In the past, Fischer has used the number $11 billion, stating that there is more than $11 billion in economic development activity planned or underway in Louisville. On his latest podcast on Dec. 28 and in recent remarks to the media, that number was increased to $12.5 billion.
Specifically, Fischer said in the podcast: “When you look around Louisville right now, we are going through a renaissance like we’ve never had before. $12.5 billion of construction either announced or underway affecting all parts of the city as well.”
But where does that number come from and is it accurate?
The number itself comes from a list that Louisville Forward, the city’s economic development arm, updates monthly, which tracks investment across Jefferson County. The most recent version of the list, updated in December, actually pegs the investment number at $12.6 billion since 2014.
Louisville Forward only started tracking the data in 2014, the year of Fischer’s re-election. The cost of projects included on the list range from $30,000 to $2.6 billion.
Now to the other question: Is it accurate?
The accuracy of the number comes down in part to how one interprets Fischer’s comment, “$12.5 billion of construction either announced or underway.” That could easily be understood as development going on currently or expected to take place in the next few years.
But the list’s $12.6 billion number also includes projects completed from 2014 to 2017. A review of the list found that at least 76 projects on the list have already been completed, including the $2.6 billion Ohio River Bridges Project and the $3.1 million Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co., which opening in 2015. Those projects total nearly $3.83 billion.
However, that number could be higher. Insider reached out to a spokesperson for the University of Louisville Foundation to confirm whether a few projects on the list were completed or still in the works, including an $80 million UofL Instructional Building and $10.4 million of work on a “UofL Medical — Dental Research Building.” Insider did not hear back.
The numbers provided by Louisville Forward also were partially incomplete. One category of investment labeled “Economic Development — Business Attraction/Expansion Projects” has a value of $4.7 billion but doesn’t break down what projects comprise that category. Without a line item of each project, it is unclear how much of that $4.7 billion is finished projects.
Insider asked Louisville Forward for the breakdown on Dec. 29 but has not received it. This post will be updated once that information is available.
In an effort to avoid lowballing the amount of projects under construction or in the planning phases, Insider counted the category, as well as a handful of other projects such as the UofL developments, as not complete.
Still, if the $3.83 billion in completed projects are removed from the list, that leaves $8.78 billion worth of development, or 105 projects, currently under construction or in the planning stages. While that amount of investment is nothing to sneeze at, it isn’t $12.6 billion.
It should be noted that there are 17 projects featured on Louisville Forward’s list that are in the works and for which the estimated development cost is unknown, including two Tru by Hilton hotels and the renovation of the Grocers Ice & Cold Storage into luxury apartments. They are not included in the $12.6 billion investment number.
Insider Louisville also noticed a few announced projects with less than $100 million in estimated investment absent from the list. There may be other projects not reflected for various reasons.
Insider Louisville reached out to the mayor’s office on Dec. 28 to ask whether Fischer believes the $12.5 billion number he’s repeated fairly characterizes the amount of economic development occurring in Jefferson County.
“We’ve always said it’s things planned, recently completed or underway,” said Chris Poynter, Fischer’s spokesman.
In an interview with Insider Louisville on Dec. 28, the mayor said “$12 billion of capital investment announced or taking place.” He did not say completed.
When asked why the mayor’s office decided to include projects already completed in its estimation, Poynter said: “I think that just because a project has been completed, it doesn’t lessen the impact on the city. The point we are trying to show is there is significant investment in Louisville.”
A week after Insider asked the mayor’s office about the accuracy of the number, Fischer told members of the Rotary Club of Louisville Thursday, “Since just 2014, we’ve attracted $12.5 billion in capital investment.”
Correction: The estimated $100 million Moxy and Hotel Distil project was included on Louisville Forward’s list as Whiskey Row hotels. That was not accurately portrayed in a previous version of this story.