Debuting 2019: $28-million Paristown project breaks ground

Steve Smith, CEO of Louisville Stoneware, spoke about first broaching the idea of the Paristown project with the mayor about five years ago. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Updated on 8/20

A long-awaited groundbreaking was held Thursday afternoon, marking the start of $28 million in new investment in the Paristown Pointe neighborhood.

As previously reported, the development will include a $6 million renovation and expansion of Louisville Stoneware, a $1 million brewery and taproom by Goodwood Brewing Co. and a new $12 million performance venue for the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.

The project also includes storm water infiltration, landscape features, native plantings, natural building materials and outdoor public space, as well as $2.2 million in streetscape and sidewalk improvements by Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government.

Originally, Steve Smith, CEO of Louisville Stoneware and the main driver behind the project, said construction could begin this past spring, which would have put the development on track for completion this coming spring or summer. Smith said the delay was caused by changes to the design of the new Kentucky Center venue that would better fit the needs of the orchestra.

“The thing that changed is Teddy Abrams and the orchestra came to the table,” Smith said. “The project of the KCA building went up to $12 million. The extra money was to put in the proper ventilation and to raise the roof for Teddy to do orchestra events down in this project.”

Mike Porto, senior director of marketing and communications, said the Kentucky Center originally planned for the two-story space to be a straightforward venue for rock shows but later decided to bring in an acoustical engineer to ensure top-quality sound within the venue, as well as add a second-story outdoor balcony and a basement for storage. The center leadership also saw the potential for hosting events other than rock shows.

“It has just evolved,” he said, noted that the changes in design and added expertise increased the cost some. “We wanted to upgrade the overall use of the space for a variety of tenants.”

The Kentucky Center now has secured the funding for the project, but changing the design and compiling the necessary financing did delay the construction start date, Porto said.

Construction will start in the next 30 to 45 days, first with the build-out of a parking lot to accommodate visitors — something Paristown Pointe severely lacks. The drawings are being finalized, Smith said, and the last bids are going out.

Construction of the new arts venue is expected to take 12 months, and the entire development is expected to wrap up around the same time, spring 2019.

“We have a lot going on right now. We’re is on a roll,” said Don Parkinson, secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. The Paristown project is “going to create new jobs, new businesses, preserve some historic places, but also it’s going to create a lot of economic activity.”

The project is expected to create $7.4 million in new tax revenue, $6.4 million of which the developers will get back in the form of a state tax credit.

The groundbreaking took place on the property where the new Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts venue will be. The standing-room-only venue will be set up to host a wide variety of performers from the Louisville Orchestra to rock bands and is expected to hold about 2,000 people.

“Its design is flexible and fluid; it has outstanding acoustics as well as a wonderful proscenium stage and portable stage you can move all over the venue for a variety of set ups,” said Kim Baker, president of the Kentucky Center, adding that they will be able to livestream events in the space.

Kentucky Center leaders looked to venues such as the San Francisco Soundbox and The Orange Peel in Asheville for inspiration, she said. “We tried to emulate these venues but also make it very authentic to us here in Louisville, Ky.”

The entire project has been about five years in the making.

“This is a big, big day that half a decade of work has gone into, and there should be some whooping and hollering and shouting,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “This will be the best project of its type anywhere in the country when it’s complete.”