The Closing Bell: West End church plans mixed-use development; analyst thinks Aetna’s a good bet; lawsuit sheds light on Cafe Lou Lou closure; and more
Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.
West Louisville church looking to fill need by building new office/retail space
St. Peter’s United Church of Christ has taken on a new mission.
The west Louisville church plans to transform a parking lot it owns at 1225 W. Jefferson St. into a 31,796-square-foot mixed-use development called The Village @ West Jefferson with retail on the first floor and offices on the second. Once constructed, the L-shaped building will sit on the lot next to the St. Peter’s sanctuary building.
“There is nothing in the area, so we wanted to take the opportunity to take that time to begin the process of revitalization,” said Dr. Rev. Jamesetta Ferguson, senior pastor at St. Peter’s. “For us, it’s about bringing economic development into the community, but it’s also about sustaining the church.”
The property will need to be rezoned from residential to commercial-residential before construction can start, but Ferguson said they hope to break ground in the fall. Construction will take 12 to 15 months.
The church will benefit from leasing space in the building, which will help them complete some much-needed renovations, she said. The sanctuary’s exterior needs to be restored, the interior remodeled, and problems including water damage and lead paint need to be addressed.
The money also will help fund programs the church provides through the nonprofit MOLO Village, which serves about 1,000 people, Ferguson said. MOLO Village, which will have an office in The Village @ West Jefferson, offers a variety of programs such as Silver Sneakers, addiction recovery and credit counseling.
The church is pre-leasing spaces so it can build them out to the needs of the tenant. Ferguson said they’d like to attract for-profit businesses as well as offices for nonprofits like Leadership Louisville Center or OneWest that have been part of the west Louisville revitalization efforts.
“We’re looking for businesses that might do job training knowing that there is a big need for that in the community. We are also looking for retail. We have many Dollar Stores in the area, but we want something that is at a higher scale,” Ferguson said. “Maybe a restaurant, a nice sit-down restaurant, a coffee shop, those kind of things.”
The Russell neighborhood has residents who work steady jobs, she said, who have money to spend, and who would like more nearby amenities.
“We would like business that are going to promote a positive image for our community,” she said. “We want true businesses that are trying to foster enterprise and economic development in our community.” —Caitlin Bowling
Analyst: Aetna a good bet for investors
Aetna will profit from the graying of America more than its competitors because it has focused on innovation and analyzing data, according to a contributor to financial media company TheStreet.
Thomas Scarlett wrote that as more baby boomers collect Social Security and pay for medical treatments, health care companies in general — and Aetna specifically — should do well.
“Many experts believe that the future of healthcare insurance belongs to those who can manage the enormous amount of data regarding treatment and outcomes. Aetna has been innovative in this area, using its existing database of millions of health care customers to target new markets.”
Plus, he wrote, the Hartford, Conn.-based insurer has “strong relationships with lots of big employers — which are still where most Americans get their health care coverage.”
And if Aetna gets to acquire Humana, it will become “a true juggernaut.”
Despite antitrust concerns, the deal is getting little regulatory pushback, Scarlett wrote.
“With so much money to be made, Aetna’s lawyers should be able to make some minor changes to win approval from doubtful regulators,” he wrote.
The author identified one big issue of uncertainty: The fate of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The law, through which Aetna and Humana have gained millions of customers, will stay if Hillary Clinton is elected president this fall — but likely faces repeal if Donald Trump were elected instead. —Boris Ladwig
Lawsuit reveals more details of fight between Café Lou Lou and landlord
When Café Lou Lou announced via Facebook that it was closing the doors of its Douglass Loop location, the restaurant vaguely referenced troubles with the landlord.
What Café Lou Lou did not note on social media was that its parent company, Nonna LLC, filed a lawsuit back in February against its landlord FRA Investments.
The lawsuit alleges that FRA Investments has neglected to replace potentially hazardous asbestos tiles in the basement of the space at 2216 Dundee Road and therefore has breached the lease agreement.
The lease states that FRA Investments is responsible for paying for a portion of any major repairs, i.e. repairs that cost in excess of $500. Nonna must pay the first $500, and FRA Investments pays the remainder.
“We felt that we gave the landlord the opportunity to make the repairs,” said Jason Vaughn, a partner at Vaughn & Smith PLLC representing Nonna LLC. He added that the landlord did not give his client permission to make the repairs.
FRA Investments filed a counter-claim alleging that as a condition of the lease, Nonna was supposed to rebuild the kitchen floor but failed to do so, resulting in ongoing water damage to the building. Grease also has entered and clogged the building’s plumbing, the counter-claim states.
“Everything our client was supposed to do they did,” Vaughn said, adding that the floors were redone soon after Café Lou Lou moved in back in 2008.
FRA Investments co-owner Frank Weisberg would not comment on the litigation. However, he said he did not know that Café Lou Lou had closed its Highlands restaurant until he received IL’s call. The restaurant has already completely cleared out of the space.
“I’m surprised that they did it,” he said, adding that a mediation meeting is scheduled for later this month. The judge in the case ordered that the parties complete mediation no later than July 15.
Café Lou Lou’s lease doesn’t expire until Jan. 1, 2018, and the lawsuit is ongoing, so Weisberg isn’t sure what exactly will happen to the space in the immediate future or if they will be able to list it for rent.
“It would be a great restaurant for anybody needing space,” he said.
For anyone curious, Café Lou Lou paid $30,000 a year for the first year and $32,160 the second year. The rent rose each year after based on how much the Consumer Price Index increased, according to the lease. —Caitlin Bowling
Who’s been funded?
At the Venture Connectors monthly luncheon on Wednesday, EnterpriseCorp Director Lisa Bajorinas updated the community of entrepreneurs and investors about recent capital that has gone to local companies. Those receiving funding include:
Clearleaf Finance — $200,000 from private investors: This is serial entrepreneur Lou Kelmanson’s baby. Clearleaf specializes in short-duration specialty finance assets in the form of liens, factored receivables, and other non-bank financial structures. The company was founded in 2013 and has seen regular injections of capital.
First Care Holdings — $200,000 from the Enterprise Angels Community Fund: First Care builds urgent care centers in rural and underserved areas. They’re using these funds to expand.
SuperFanU — $800,000 from the Bluegrass Angels, Jumpfund, KSTC, Commonwealth Seed Capital and local and regional angels: Tendai Charasika, formerly head of EnterpriseCorp, helms this startup that helps colleges and high schools encourage students to engage in school activities, attend sporting events and otherwise be a fan of their U.
Portland Investment Initiative — $1.308 million from Park Community Bank and private investors: Gill Holland’s investment initiative aimed at revitalizing key parts of the Portland neighborhood has received a sizable injection of capital lately. These funds will go toward purchasing and restoring the Stage Coach Inn and a triplex in the neighborhood, among other buildings. —Melissa Chipman
GE Appliances to change hands next week
The acquisition of GE Appliances by China-based Qingdao Haier is expected to be completed Monday, company officials said.
We reported about a month ago that union and company officials expected the deal to be finalized early this month.
GE in January agreed to sell its appliances division to Haier for $5.4 billion. The unit’s headquarters will remain in Louisville, where it employs about 6,000. —Boris Ladwig
BoomBozz Taphouse jumps into the brunch business at its Highlands location
Starting this Saturday, June 4, you can now add BoomBozz Highlands Taphouse to your brunch list. The local pizza joint will offer up breakfast pizzas, sweet and savory Belgian waffles, bloody marys, mimosas and more, they promise on their Facebook event page.
Brunch will be served each Saturday starting at 9 a.m., and on Sunday at 10 a.m. Also of note, build-your-own bloody marys and fresh-made mimosas will be priced around $4 each, entering them into the competitive morning cocktail market that keeps restaurants packed on weekend mornings.
While the full menu isn’t online yet, they have released teasers of some items, including steak-and-egg waffles drizzled with Sriracha aioli, and steel-cut oatmeal topped with bananas, candied walnuts and almond butter. Sounds like it’s worth a try. —Sara Havens
Small strip center planned near Pleasure Ridge Park High School
Taco Bell and at least one other restaurant will join the McDonald’s and Pleasure Ridge Pizza & Sports Bar along Greenwood Road near Pleasure Ridge Park High School.
Louisville-based company Hoagland Commercial Realtors has filed plans to construct a 29,005-square-foot strip center, which includes two outlot buildings with drive-thrus and 27 parking spaces. The property, which is located at 6300 Greenwood Road, must be rezoned from residential to commercial.
Brian Forrest, principal broker for Hoagland, told IL that Taco Bell will take one of the outlots.
“They’d been looking at that area for a while,” he said.
Hoagland would like a coffee shop to take the other one. The center, called Greenwood Plaza, also will have two conjoined spaces available for rent. Forrest said the space could house retail shops or a third restaurant.
Pending rezoning approvals, construction on the new strip center could get underway in September or October, he said.
Work happening at former Papalinos restaurant in the Highlands
My coworker Melissa Chipman noticed this past weekend that workers were inside the space formerly occupied by Papalinos Pizza at 947 Baxter Ave.
I did some digging online to see if a new restaurant or retail shop was planning to open in the space that Papalinos vacated in 2014. Its windows have been covered and doors locked ever since.
It’s unclear what the exact use will be, but it seems the 1,056-square-foot space could soon come back to life. According to a city building permit issued in April, the property owner “wishes to open up space for new business or retail use” and notes that workers will be removing all non-load-bearing walls inside the space, except two small walls.
Removing the last vestiges of the Papalinos layout could help the owner better market the space to businesses. Given the property’s prime location in the Highlands, it’s somewhat surprising that the space has sat empty for so long.
According to Jefferson County property records, the retail and office spaces are owned by a company called Falls City Properties. The company bought it from R & B Realty for $160,000 on April 1. R & B Realty dissolved in 2014, according to the Kentucky Secretary of State, and was owned by Papalinos co-founders John Browne and chef Allan Rosenberg.
The number listed for Falls City Properties was disconnected, so IL wasn’t able to find out what the owners plans are for the space, but we’ll keep an eye out.
Interestingly, the building’s 36 apartments are owned separately by Legacy Development Corp., according to county property records. Legacy Development Corp. is a defunct company owned by Mark Issacs.
Broken Sidewalk reported back in 2011 that Issacs, a once-prominent architect, fled Louisville after racking up debt. Problems were found in buildings that Issacs constructed, including the Baxter Avenue apartments. —Caitlin Bowling
Sim Cave powers down
Sim Cave Digital Gaming Arena has suspended operations.
The console and PC-based gaming venue opened in November 2015 in an office park on Plantside Drive. Former Velocity accelerator program director and startup community mentor Tony Schy located the business in that neighborhood in part because of its proximity to other venues that host parties, like the go-cart track and Chuck E. Cheese.
Schy said the business is not dead, but that location wasn’t working out. He told IL: “The location was an experiment designed to learn as much as we could about the possible business model.”
So if you haven’t had a chance to test out the gaming venue, don’t despair. “We definitely learned a ton and decided that the location and a few other things about the model need to change,” Schy said. “So we are shutting down and retooling the approach. Our plan is to re-open in a different location sometime in 2017.” —Melissa Chipman
Doc Crow‘s Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar expands its hours
Downtown restaurant Doc Crow‘s Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar is adding weekend lunch hours. Currently, it is only open for dinner on Saturdays and Sundays.
The restaurant’s ownership company Falls City Hospitality Group said in a news release that Doc Crow’s will be open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays starting on June 18. Its weekday hours will remain the same.
Located near the KFC Yum! Center, Doc Crow’s would regularly adjust its hours to accommodate crowds flocking to games, concerts and other events downtown, the release noted, but the owners decided to make the hour changes permanent.
Edward Lee to make appearance on new season of “Masterchef”
Louisville’s most well-known chef Edward Lee will once again step into the national limelight.
Lee is among the cast of renowned chefs who will make guest appearances as a judge on Gordon Ramsey’s “Masterchef” television show on FOX. Other guest judges will include Wolfgang Puck, Aaron Sanchez, Kevin Sbranga and Richard Blais.
A news release from FOX doesn’t say on which episode Lee will appear, but we’d venture to guess it will include smoking meats or pickled foods. Lee’s 2013 book is titled “Smoke & Pickles” after all.
Here’s a preview of the season that started this week. New episodes air at 8 p.m. each Wednesday. —Caitlin Bowling