Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cordish Plans New “Center City”

Cordish has done it again. And wow.

The Baltimore-based developer of Fourth Street Live has announced plans for a new 250 million dollar mixed-use development in the heart of downtown. It will encompass the entire Water Company block, and include a renovated Louisville Gardens, and other assorted properties on six separate city blocks. In a word, this is HUGE.

The old Water Company will be the main focus of this development. At the site, Cordish has preliminary plans for buildings equaling over 500,000 square feet of space with a mix of uses. The block will be transformed into a retail hub/entertainment area/neighborhood. The project will consist mainly of building flush with the street with retail and dining options along the first level and residential or office space above it. There will also be a residential mid-rise of at least 15 stories. Officials have declined to mention exactly how many residential units will be included, but did say there would be at least “several hundred”.

In the new development, currently called Center City, Cordish plans to bring in small and medium sized national tenants, including restaurants, retail stores, and a large multiplex theatre. The company has not yet signed any tenants for the project, but they did say that national chains were responding favorably in negotiations. Cordish has hinted, however, that a major department store might not be a part of the final mix.

The other main component of this sweeping project is the renovation of the aging Louisville Gardens. The company plans to revive the space as an arena for a new minor league hockey team, and as a venue for smaller concerts and shows. The Gardens were built in early 20th century, and the building hasn’t been extensively renovated in years.

The price tag for the entire project is estimated at 250 million dollars, which will be completely fronted by Cordish. However, there is a catch. For the project to be built the city has been asked to approve a TIF district covering the area of the new developments and rebating up to 80 percent of future tax growth for 30 years to improve public infrastructure. The TIF dollars would be rebated back to Cordish for their work in rebuilding public amenities, such as streets, alleys, new lighting and streetscapes, and new parking decks. The rebate would be 130 million dollars over the life of the TIF.

The Metro Council will receive the official request for the TIF district on Thursday, and it is expected to breeze through the council. It will also have to be approved by state officials in Frankfort, which have historically rubberstamped municipal decisions in this type of situation. If the TIF district is passed without a hitch construction will begin in 2008.

Center City, if completed, will cost nearly 4 times that of nearby Fourth Street Live, and will dwarf it in scope. Cordish has long tried build on to their wildly successful project in Louisville, only for things to usually fall through. In 2005 they planned a phase two to Fourth Street Live in the former JCPenney building, only for other building owners to refuse selling their properties. Earlier this year Cordish reached a deal with the owners of the Starks Building to expand their center, but it will only add a few thousand feet of space.

The project is especially exciting for Louisville because it is the culmination of years of renewal in the core. The city has longed for a major retail destination that can serve the burgeoning urban population and provide conventioneers and other out-of-town guest a place to drop their money and spend their time. It has not been a secret that city officials have been pushing and kneading developers to build this sort of showcase project – and that they would not consider the downtown rebirth successful until this was done.

I think downtown Louisville may have finally arrived.

More in Store for Downtown - Sunday, August 19


Anonymous said...

none of this happened..4th street live is a joke Louisville=nonwhereville

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