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.
Of course, the biggest news today is the $37 billion sale of Humana to Connecticut-based rival Aetna. Keep up with IL’s continuing coverage here.
What’s the biggest difference between the downtowns of Nashville and Louisville?
If you said the source of the capital pouring into them, you’re onto something.
In a presentation to the Rotary Club on Thursday, Rebecca Matheny, executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership, highlighted the $1.161 billion in public and private investments driving current growth downtown. The overall figure includes $964.29 million in public developments underway; much of that, of course, is the Ohio River Bridges Project.
And there is $197.13 million in private development projects downtown, including Steve Poe’s Aloft Hotel, Brown-Forman’s Old Forester Distillery on Whiskey Row, and the Angel’s Envy distillery on East Main Street.
Matheny also cited nearly $789 million in announced projects — she was careful to clarify that meant these are serious projects — on the horizon downtown. Those include the renovation of the Kentucky International Convention Center, the Omni Louisville, Kindred’s Fourth Street expansion, and the Starks Building renovation.
That’s all good progress — about $1.95 billion worth of it — and for those who appreciate a good crane, there’s an abundance here that has been lacking.
A few hours southbound on I-65, however, is a much different story.
In Nashville, once a competitor city to Louisville, Metro government recently said it had approved a staggering $2.4 billion — that’s billion — in building permits for the 2014-15 fiscal year. That’s 30 percent higher than the previous record, set the year before. And as the Nashville Business Journal pointed out this week, that’s $46.9 million in building permits per week, or 47 permits approved every business day. If you were wondering whether Nashville was an “it” city — wait, why were you even wondering that?
But there’s a downside to the gold rush, and it might even be an upside for Louisville. A city’s authenticity is often the first thing in tatters after such an extraordinary boom, and as Matheny pointed out to the rotarians, Louisville has enough for real to share. The LDP is working on a strategy now to further develop downtown’s neighborhoods as distinctive areas strung together by easily navigable streets and sidewalks — a concept that has worked well for Nashville’s Midtown and The Gulch. They’re focusing on five areas: West Main and Market, Fourth Street, East Main and Market, the Medical Center, and NuLu.
The thought is that building up those neighborhoods into districts will provide a greater draw downtown, maybe pulling along more of that coveted young-professional demographic — and the businesses who want to hire them, and the developers who want to house them — to the city center.
America The Diner won’t happen on Cherokee Road: Brokers Gant Hill and Scott Howe tell IL that after several months of negotiations, the diner proposed for 814 Cherokee Road is off, as landlord and prospective tenant could not come to terms. The building is owned by the Barzun-Brown family, who are stakeholders in the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood, along with Hill and Howe. The proposed diner’s operators, Dustin and Kyle Staggers of Roux Louisville, ran into early opposition from the Church of the Advent, which worked to block their liquor license application. Some neighbors also expressed concerns about late-night noise from the diner, as well as a potential influx of cars and traffic near the entryway to the Triangle, which any local driver knows is a tight turn. Hill and Howe, who are representing the majority owners in the building, said they are pursuing other interests for the space. “We are all very supportive of the Staggers and will remain patrons of their restaurants,” Hill said. Stay tuned for more on what the brothers will do next.
Gannett splits, stocks dance: If you’re a Twitter user, you might’ve noticed the hashtag #NewGannett earlier this week. It was a promo for Gannett, the “new” spinoff that includes 92 newspapers, The Courier-Journal among them, formerly owned by the Virginia-based media conglomerate. Gannett officially spawned its broadcast and digital businesses into Tegna — which owns WHAS-11 — on Monday, much to Wall Street’s delight, as the latter, analysts say, is better positioned for growth than traditional newspapers. Investors tended to agree with that assessment, as the new company’s stock was steadily increasing as of Thursday morning, up about 7 percent for the week. Gannett’s stock didn’t fare as well, ending the week down from its target price of $14. Analysts are saying hold onto both right now, as Week 1 isn’t the best gauge of where the companies are headed. Gannett, whose flagship remains USA Today, is expected to pursue acquisitions of more community newspapers to build its advertising base.
Highlands’ Life Bar will be vegan bakery: Life Bar, the pressed juice store in the Highlands closed earlier this year, unbeknownst to most Bardstown Roaders considering the prime retail space remained empty for months. This week however, the bright orange awnings have been stripped of the Life Bar logo and the two windows now sport signs promising “something awesome coming soon.” A call to relocated Life Bar employees, now in the Gardiner Lane Rainbow Blossom, revealed that the space at 1570 Bardstown Road will be converted to a raw-vegan bakery. The bakery is unaffiliated with Life Bar; more specifics to come. —Adelle Brodbeck
ASPIRE Cafe opens in West End: The African-Soul food fusion restaurant opened this week in the Russell neighborhood, one of the city’s many “food deserts” because it offers limited access to affordable and nutritious food. Along with the restaurant, ASPIRE will include artist studios above the cafe. The restaurant is positioning itself as a family-friendly, healthy foods place for west Louisville residents. ASPIRE is located at 418 S. 18th St. Follow their Facebook page for more details. —Melissa Chipman
Jewish Community of Louisville names new CEO: Louisville native Sara Klein Wagner has the top job at JCL. Wagner’s been senior VP and COO at the organization for the past four years. Formerly the director of the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign, she has worked in Jewish causes since beginning her career in Louisville in 1990. “We need to understand and articulate the needs of the community, provide leadership, build resources, sustain a vibrant array of experiences, convene and partner with our agencies and congregations, and ensure the gates are wide open and welcoming to all,” she said of the work ahead.