The Progress Paint building

Jeff Butler and his family moved from the Washington, D.C. area to Louisville in January.

Eleven months later, he’s getting ready to make a pretty sizable dent in a problem that has plagued downtown Louisville for more than a half century.

It has nothing to do with bridges. The grocery store downtown needs may come later. Butler isn’t talking about convention centers or Cordish or the NBA.

“It’s all about beds,” he says. “Residential beds.”

And, thanks in part to Butler, sometime in the next 18 months or so, there will be between 80 and 90 more of them in downtown Louisville.

Butler and LDG Development have partnered with Vince Rosenblatt and ADS Holdings to convert the old Progress Paint building on Brook between Market and Main Streets, once slated for the Angel’s Envy boutique distillery, into market rate apartments and retail space.

There are plenty of high-end condos in the downtown area, says Butler, but not enough rentals.

“That’s the impetus. The timing is right, the market is right,” says Butler, “and unlike other places, the mood of the city is right.”

Judging by the way Butler talks about the city, that mood is ebullient.  There aren’t many people who love Louisville as much as I do. But Jeff Butler may give me a run for my self-declared title of “Louisville’s biggest cheerleader.”

Butler decided to hightail it out of the DC-area once his three sons were all tucked away in college (“The girl,” he jokes about his 14 year old daughter, “she’ll just figure it out.”). He’d done business before in Louisville and loved the city, and when it came time to relocate, Louisville and San Antonio were the two cities that made his short list.

And he and his family chose Louisville. They bought an old house in Old Louisville and moved here in January 2012.

His plan?

“To play golf for a year.”

But not long after moving here one of his neighbors – Butler mentioned his neighbors at least four times; apparently if you’re looking for great neighbors, you’ll find them in Old Louisville – took note of his business interests and pointed someone at LDG Development in his direction.

LDG is a locally-owned residential development company founded in 1994. The company specializes in the affordable housing market and rehab and construction of apartment complexes and buildings. But “affordable housing” – the euphemism, not the reality – isn’t really Butler’s bag.

So when LDG wanted him to join them, they had to let him do his thing.

And the Progress Paint Building is just a start. Trust us.

“I can’t say enough nice things about the people I’ve worked with from the city,” says Butler. These people include Alan DeLisle and Rebecca Matheny, executive director and deputy director of the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation and Ted Smith, the city’s Director of Economic Development and Innovation. “No lip service. They’ve helped me every step of the way.”

LDG has likewise been very supportive.

It’s a company of Louisvillians, U of L grads, who have built and developed housing all over the country. They live out in the East End, says Butler, but they want to contribute to the success of downtown.

The yet-to-be-named building (they’ll pay tribute in some way to the paint company that it once housed) is quirky. And they’re hoping to maintain and build upon that character. They don’t want the architects to build “New York-style” or “Chicago-style” lofts.

“In fact,” Butler says, “I want people to see this building and then go back to New York or Chicago and build ‘Louisville-style’ lofts.”

Two weeks ago, Insider Louisville  posted about the new NuLu Business Association and the NuLu Strategic Plan.

The Boyds wrote, “a major initiative of the renamed group and of NuLu Strategic Plan 2012 is to create an inviting residential environment with a mix of housing options in a section of town rich in restaurants, retailers, office building and art galleries.”

Jeff Butler read this and contacted us.

“I wanted to let people know that there are people out there who are not just thinking about downtown and NuLu residences,” he said. “We’re going to do something about it.”