Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops before the weekend — a roundup of real estate, retail and other business news that can’t wait for Monday.
This week, TCB is dishing details on the potential fate of a prime plot of land on the edge of the Highlands and downtown, the sale of a struggling shopping center, Papa John’s search for talent at a local hackerspace, and more. But first, BIG news in Portland…
LVAA moving to Portland?
The Portland arts renaissance is about to get another big boost: Insiders are telling IL that the Louisville Visual Arts Association is in the final stages of a deal to buy and occupy a massive warehouse on Lytle Street just west of 15th, in the Shippingport area.
Our sources say the 32,000-square-foot space might still accommodate some light industry or manufacturing, to help LVAA make the financing work. There’s also plenty of space for other tenants — artist studios, other nonprofits, and the like.
The LVAA has been searching for a new space for several years. It left its home in the historic Water Tower in 2012 and currently occupies space at 609 West Main Street.
LVAA Executive Director Shannon Westerman confirmed to IL that the board recently voted to approve an offer to purchase a new building. He says the building is in east Portland on Lytle Street but did not offer any further details, adding only that the deal is not complete.
“This potential transaction reflects the strategic vision of the LVAA Board of Directors, and is a bold move that would impact both the future of LVAA and the cultural arts and educational opportunities for thousands of youth and adults living in some of our city’s most challenging neighborhoods,” he says.
The warehouse is located across the street from the Tim Faulkner Gallery on Portland and 15th. Faulkner was an early adopter in developer Gill Holland’s vision for a revitalized Portland, and his 26,000-square-foot space has become a magnet for local artists and creatives. Along with Holland, Faulkner has served as a sort of ambassador in the ongoing quest for an adaptive reuse of the historic Portland neighborhood, which is home to more than 1,400 vacant or abandoned properties.
Seems like an ideal fit for LVAA.
We also talked to an owner of the warehouse, who wasn’t ready to confirm any details to IL.
A hotel for the Highlands? How about a parking lot instead?
The recent news that the former gas station at 1244 East Broadway could be redeveloped into a restaurant or another CVS proved to be so much grist for the rumor mill. IL heard everything from a boutique hotel to a mixed-use development to a retail shop would inhabit that space. For now, our sources say, potential suitors are cooling on the site.
But we also kept hearing the property across Broadway — the corner where Broadway and Baxter meet — might be part of a bigger deal. After all, that triangle is a gateway that connects the Highlands to Phoenix Hill and east downtown. Imagine a boutique hotel overlooking Cave Hill Cemetery, the Baxter strip and downtown. Or retail with eateries mixed in.
Or a parking lot?
The building at 656 Baxter Ave. is owned by Ben Rogers, founder and owner of Phoenix Hill Tavern, who holds deeds on most of the parcels on that block. IL checked in with Karen Callahan, property manager for the building, who confirmed there’s been recent interest both from a restaurateur (whom she couldn’t name) and a flea market operator.
But there are complications. Most significantly, Phoenix Hill has the rights to the adjoining parking lot on nights and in the early mornings. And we don’t know any restaurants that would be willing to close their parking lots at dinnertime.
There’s also the fact that the building is in a dire state of disrepair, and experts say it’d cost north of $150,000 to get it up to snuff. Callahan says a recent tenant intent on “remodeling” actually leveled even more damage on the first floor.
The 656 building has been vacant for at least two years, and Callahan says they’ve recently discussed an entirely new plan: razing it and extending the parking lot over to the main PHT building. That would relieve some pressure the nearby nightlife puts on the surrounding neighborhood, Callahan says. And the lack of parking is a common complaint going back decades among neighbors.
Still, nothing is set, and the property is for lease through Fluhr CRE.
IL asked Callahan about the possibility of combining 1244 East Broadway and 656 Baxter into a block-defining development that would welcome Highlanders into Phoenix Hill and downtown. She said there’s no real talk of such pie in the sky, adding that what she’d really like to see go up at the old gas station across the street is a parking garage.