Developer in town looking at Starks Building

The Starks Buildingwebsite-for webLast week, both Business First and the C-J reported on a new round of speculation about the future of the Starks Building. Specifically, they riffed on a web page — since removed — on the site of Florida developer Hudson Holdings, purportedly revealing the company’s plans for the 14-story tower at 455 S. Fourth St.

We assume everyone was working off the same tip we had at the time. We called the broker and the owner, Mendel Hertz of the Hertz Investment Group. No comment — not even an indication that there was new interest. It’s not unusual for the Starks to be the center of well-sourced gossip. A potential sale of the building fell through as recently as 2013, and really, it’s just fun to speculate about what could go there.

Later on Friday afternoon, after both stories ran, Hudson scrubbed any mention of the Starks from its website. It hasn’t returned. For a minute, the whole thing seemed to have been a big joke. See, for example, this from Hudson’s homepage:

Hudson Holdings Starks building

Not that we often resist the draws of real estate speculation, but there wasn’t really any reporting out there that wasn’t based on a webpage that had just disappeared. So we called Hertz again, and we got the same answer. We called Hudson, but no one answered. Finally, on Thursday afternoon, we spoke with someone in the office who told us she’d have to talk to the partners and get back to us about the project. Fine.

Then she told us they were in Louisville, and that we might have to wait for a call back. That’s new.

There are a lot of reasons for a developer not to try to put 200 hotel rooms, 100 apartments and office space (which is already there) on top of the existing retail at the Starks Building, which is an anchor of Fourth Street Live. Plumbing is one (consider the logistical and financial challenge of converting communal bathrooms on each floor into one or two commodes per unit). Another is that they’d be doing it without any financial help from Metro government, which is prevented from providing incentives to projects like that by the deal it signed with Omni.

But it’s also a massive, cool building with a ton of potential. There are built-in amenities and crowds. We’re all waiting for something to happen there. And if you want an idea of what Hudson is capable of, check out the Huntington Building in Cleveland.

BF reported that there has been some interest in state tax incentives for historic structures at the Starks Building, but nobody gave any details as to who or when.

Hertz bought the Starks building for $12.5 million in 2006. The PVA valued it at $8.5 million in January 2014.

Oh, and the Holland folks? Never called us back.

Bye bye, Wasabiya? 

Wikimania_SushiWe’ve heard it from enough reliable sources that we feel confident to report Wasabiya, the Japanese restaurant in Baxter Commons, will close in the next few weeks, to be replaced by Eggs over Baxter.

Wasabiya has had the longest staying power for a business in that spot over the past decade. From 2005 to 2010, that space changed hands at least three times. It was a night club, then a jazz club, but never a restaurant until Wasabiya moved in.

Reviews for Wasabiya are more positive than negative, and some of their rolls and appetizers are among the best in the city. The Kani Su is crab and avocado wrapped in cucumbers in a sweet rice vinaigrette sauce. (That sweet rice vinaigrette sauce is practically drinkable on its own.) Their seaweed and crab salads are excellent.

But from day one, they were rarely busy. In the beginning they made ample use of generous Groupons. It’s a big space in one of the busiest restaurant/entertainment corridors in Louisville. Still, regular visitors — including us — have no idea how it survived this long.

We’ll especially miss the friendly staff, who learned our preferences after just a few visits.