Friday, July 27, 2007

UofL Expanding Downtown

Dean Charles Moyer of the University of Louisville College of Business is committed to moving his business graduate programs from the Belknap campus to downtown; the question is where will they land? Early this week the dean sent out requests for proposals to three downtown developers asking them to find the college 30,000 square feet of new space along Main Street.

The college is looking at Museum Plaza, Iron Quarter, and a yet to be announced mid rise tower on the East Main corridor. Dean Moyer wants the program to move into new space versus rehabilitated space for the ease of converting it into large open conference rooms and auditoriums.

The search for new dig in the CBD isn’t new. The college has been attempting to move the graduate programs to downtown for nearly two years. There were plans for the school to move into renovated space at the Hilliard Lyons building, but that development fell apart. They also looked into building a free standing structure at the Haymarket site, but the cost was simply too high. Dean Moyer now hopes this latest attempts proves to be the final one.

If they chose to move to Museum Plaza, they won’t be the only group of students. The Masters of Fine Arts program has already committed to locating in the soon-to-be-started project. Their space will be in the “Island” of Museum Plaza, while the business program would be housed closer to earth in the historic buildings fronting West Main Street. If the business school picked Iron Quarter, they would be the first major anchor tenant in the project.

Dean Moyer has long desired to move the graduate program to the heart of the city – explaining that is gives the school a better chance to connect with local business leaders. Hopefully this latest attempt will flesh out and the MBA program will continue to mature

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Library SOS

Louisville’s new Library Tax

My Position: In Favor

In November, the citizens of Louisville will be asked in the voting booth if they are in favor of a two tenths of one percent tax increase on income for the ailing Louisville Free Public Library system. My sincere hope is that they vote “YES”. The Louisville library system is in dire needs of repairs, computers, and books. The city budget cannot fully fund all these needs as well as other city priorities.

To meet the need of the library system in the 21st century, Louisville wants to create a library control district that would be an independent group to oversee the growth of the system. Jefferson County is one of only a handful of counties in Kentucky that does not currently have a system like this.

With the estimated 40 million dollar a year levy, the city will build three new “regional” libraries, it will renovate several small branches, and will completely overhaul and modernize the aging downtown main branch. To put this 40 million dollar into perspective: the average family earning 40,000 dollars a year will pay less 7 dollars a month. That wouldn’t even buy two Big Mac meals from McDonald’s.

The city currently spends about 16 million dollars on the library system – and that keeps everything pretty bare boned. If this levy passes, the city will then have 16 million dollars freed in the budget to pay for other, very pressing needs. Anyone who keeps up with the city’s financial situation knows that a crisis in health care costs and pensions is only a few years away. Healthcare costs are expected to grow as fast, if not faster, than revenue growth. Essentially speaking, even if Louisville gets more tax income, those increases will be eaten by ballooning entitlement costs. Because of this, Louisvillians need to strike while the fire is hot, and save the library system from reductions later.

Currently, Republicans on the Metro Council are opposed to this, and instead are offering a plan in which the city indebts itself with 175 million dollars in bonds issued over seven years. They claim the city will be able to absorb the added cost of the payments of these bonds with future projected revenue. Republicans on the council (Except Councilwomen Adams and Call) want to “borrow” this money, spend it to build new libraries, but not tell you that we’re looking at a fiscal crisis in only a few short years.

New taxes aren’t popular – and I fully appreciate and understand that fact. We all want an extra few bucks in our pockets. But this library expansion is a social good with a relatively low cost. It adds to the perception that Louisville is serious about increasing education – the key to reducing social ills such as poverty and crime. If you’re serious about the overall health of Louisville, please support this initiative!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Recent Arena News

The past two weeks have had several updates on the current state of the downtown arena’s development. Work continues on all fronts including design, bond issuance, and construction.

The first announcement was that the design of the structure is nearing completion and will be revealed at a special meeting of the Arena Authority before September 1. The interior designs were released several months ago, but the exterior remains a mystery to the community. The designers took many suggestions from the public, such as locations for entrances and exits, size of a public plaza, and a desire for the design to take cues from the river – but we’ll see how it all works together soon enough.

Earlier this week, Arena Authority Chairman Jim Host said he believes that bonds can be issued for the arena by mid-November at the latest, and preferably by mid-October. The earlier the date, the better, as current interest rates are below original estimates, and that could lead to significant savings on the cost. Bond underwriter Goldman Sachs will be ready to proceed as soon as the arena authority finishes the needed agreements, which could all be signed as early as September 1. The arena authority stills need to finalize deals with a concession provider, the University of Louisville, the Parking Authority of River City, designer HOK Sport, and the Kentucky State Fair Board. Any savings from the earlier selling of bonds will be collected into a “Rainy Day” fund that will be used in the event of a revenue shortfall before the city is asked to shoulder more of the burden.

Last week arena officials traveled north to Indianapolis to pitch their case to the NCAA for the chance to host the 2010 women’s volleyball tournament, as well as other future events in wrestling and ice hockey. Louisville officials appeared confident after the meeting and will travel to Indianapolis again in August to discuss Louisville's chance of hosting the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments (Louisville can't host the Final Four, but it is could host earlier parts of the tournament). Officials were buoyed by the meeting and the fact that early discussions in the arena’s design included recommendation from the NCAA to give Louisville a leg up on the competition.

Work continues at the future site of the arena. Humana is expecting to fully vacate their building on the site by mid-Fall. They are currently moving over 1,500 employees next door to new space in the Waterfront Plaza towers. Work also continues at the large LG&E transformer site, and is expected to be mostly finished there this fall as well.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

River City News Briefs

AT&T Adding 350 Jobs Downtown
AT&T is planning to add 350 new workers to their facility downtown on Chestnut Street. The new customer service jobs stem from the companies continued expansion the the realm of high speed internet. The announcement indicates there will be a 1.5 million dollar investment in their building and an annual payroll of 10 million dollars a year. Not exactly the best pay possible, but it will help some people

Haymarket Development to Have a September Groundbreaking?
The University of Louisville announced today they "hope" to break ground on an expansion of their life sciences campus downtown by September. The development was first proposed in the early 2000's, but has seen little concrete action. With UofL assuming almost total control of the Louisville Medical Center Development Corporation, they expect to push the project forward despite having no anchor tenant. Plans calls for four to five buildings on the block bounded by Jefferson, Market, Floyd, and Preston.

Louisville Zoo Break Attendance Record
The Louisville Zoo reported the largest number of visitors ever in the year ending June 30. The zoo had 810,546 visitors. The last record was set in 2003 after the zoo had finished the Gorilla Forest exhibit. Plans call for continued expansion at the zoo, with the development of the Arctic Run exhibit, which will replace aging enclosures for polar bears and other cold weather creatures.

University of Louisville Tops off Newest Building.
UofL held a ceremony for the topping off of their newest building in the downtown medical district. The seven story structure, at he corner of Preston and Chestnut, will be nearly 200,000 square feet and will house the offices of physicians and dentists who are members of the schools faculty. The structure is one the first buildings in the schools new master plan for the medical campus.

Jeffersonville Ramada/Sheraton Moves Forward
The decrepit Jeffersonville Ramada is finally starting to see better days. Much of the interior has been demolished, and build out of the structure has begun in earnest. A new facade will replace the gaudy yellow cladding that was once such a point of derision. The hotel is being rebranded a Sheraton, and rates will increase to reflect the new name and the complete overhaul.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Newsbrief: Cordish Confirms Starks Development

Cordish has finally signed the lease for the entire first floor of the Starks Building for the first expansion of the three year old Fourth Street Live complex. This expansion will take up 21,000 square feet of vacant retail space along Muhammad Ali that had formerly housed the Rodes store. Cordish expects to invest up to 6 million dollars in it's latest enterprise.

Cordish has also alluded to their plans to redevelop several properties south along Fourth Street.