For a little city sort of adrift – stuggling economy, weak leadership, missing bridges – there remain pockets of feverish activity.
In addition to Nucleus and myriad other projects, look for University of Louisville officials to focus on West Main Street over the next few years, which might culminate in a Main Street complex.
Insiders tell Insider Louisville there are many, many projects in various stages of development including an effort to create a new film institute.
In addition, insiders confirmed on Wednesday that the Frazier History Museum officials plan to expand into two adjoining buildings – 823 to 821 W. Main – on the east side of the original building at 829 W. Main.
But first, the big deal … and the caveats.
Insiders tell Insider Louisville U of L officials signed a contract this week for a Main Street building in a deal brokered by Louisville Downtown Development Corp.
But the details as to which building – and what exactly is going in it – shift depending on who’s talking.
LDDC officials did not return calls for comment. U of L officials declined to go on the record by name.
One U of L official did say on background that no donor has been found for one initative – moving College of Business graduate programs to Main Street.
And therein lies the tale, say multiple sources.
U of L officials’ Main Street plans date back to the halcyon days before the Great Recesssion when the Museum Plaza project looked like it would happen.
The college’s graduate programs — the two-year Professional MBA for working execs, the hugely successful entrepreneurial MBA and master of accountancy – were slated to move to 615 through 621 W. Main.
There, they would all be rebranded into “The Center for Graduate and Executive Education,” a center that was to take 40,000 square feet in classrooms, offices and conference and seminar spaces for corporate use, according to U of L documents from 2008.
The Museum Plaza plan also was to include graduate programs for U of L’s Hite Art Institute.
The four building facades were to be incorporated at street level into the larger Museum Plaza skyscraper, a project that was cancelled last August.
End of story?
Hardly, say sources.
There is a growing impetus to do a deal or deals that would still make U of L a major Main Street presence.
All sources stressed that a lot of money remains to be raised before anything starts to happen. “Just don’t make this sound like we’re having a ribbon cutting next week,” said one.
That said, sources tell us top U of L officials are involved in what’s being called “The Main Street Redevelopment Project,” which could ultimately result in several programs coalescing there including the film program that’s been in the works for two years.
In addition, our sources say former Fund for the Arts president Allan Cowen has reemerged, working with Keith Inman, U of L’s vice president for university advancement, on a separate project funded by a Brown-Forman heir.
Sources in the room during discussions about Main Street lay out a number of scenarios in play, with city downtown development officials involved in multiparty negotiations on strategic properties that include the university and the Brown family, whose members have major Main Street properties including 21C Museum Hotel and the Frazier History Museeum.
Other insiders told us U of L officials have looked at a series of buildings just east of the Frazier Museum at 815 W. Main to 811 W. Main.
Which makes a certain amount of sense because the Sons of the American Revolution is in the middle of a spectacular buildout of 809 W. Main for their new Genealogical Library. Execs at Michter’s Distiller, a division of Chatham Imports, are planning to invest more than $8 million in the Fort Nelson building at the corner of Eighth and Main streets, where they plan a distilery and visitors center.
Except, this part of the story doesn’t quite hold together.
Yes, Frazier Museum officials plan to expand on the block. Just not in the near term, said Krista Snider, museum director of public relations and marketing, in an email response to a query.
Though the Frazier Museum does ultimately hope to expand into the adjacent building, there are no firm plans to do so in the near future. Before that option is fully explored, we’ll first be working to better utilize the space within our current building’s footprint. For example, there is a renovation project currently underway to expand one of our temporary exhibition galleries.
Also, commercial real estate broker Yandell Wood, with Cassidy Turley/Harry K. Moore, told Insider Louisville he has not spoken to U of L officials about the buildings at 811 to 815 W. Market, which he has listed.
More as we know more. But this is going to be a story that evolves over months, if not years.