Welcome to the Nov. 23 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Galt House opposed to loss of pedway in convention center expansion


A rendering of the new convention center, minus the pedway in question.

A Galt House representative recently told Metro Council members he is opposed to the elimination of a pedway connecting the hotel to the convention center. Removal of the pedway is part of preliminary design plans for the $180 million expansion of the Kentucky International Convention Center.

At Metro Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this month, Council President David Tandy introduced the Rev. Charles Elliott and Orson Oliver of the Al J. Schneider Co., which owns the Galt House, to voice concerns about the loss of the pedway. Elliott noted that he attended a recent planning meeting in which the current design for the expansion eliminated the pedway crossing over Market Street, saying it would provide a hardship for Galt House guests.

“That pedway up there is a real good blessing for many of the senior citizens, and especially when the weather isn’t good,” said Elliott. “I don’t know the reason why they want to disconnect that pedway to the convention center. But I will be protesting, raising hell and doing everything I can to keep them from doing that.”

Elliott added that he already has spoken with Governor-Elect Matt Bevin in an effort to keep the pedway in place, and urged council members to join him in opposition.

The Kentucky State Fair Board operates the convention center, and Oliver told council its reasons for doing away with the pedway have to do with design and the argument that pedways hurt ground-level retail. Oliver said neither reason makes sense, as the convention center will keep one of the pedways connected to the Marriott across Jefferson Street, and there is no retail below the Market Street pedway in question.

This pedway over Market Street could be eliminated in the convention center expansion, much to the chagrin of the Galt House and other critics. | Photo via Google Maps

This pedway over Market Street could be eliminated in the convention center expansion, much to the chagrin of the Galt House and other critics. | Photo via Google Maps

“We have these people in the city called ‘urban planners,’” said Oliver, dismissively. “They go to these urban planner conferences, and at the most recent one they came back from, (they said) pedways keep people off the street, and they want people on the street because of retail.”

Oliver said the Galt House paid for the pedway crossing Main Street from the hotel, but it would now be a “pedway going to nowhere” unless the Fair Board changes its designs.

Amanda Storment, spokeswoman for the Fair Board, told IL the design plans have not been finalized – construction is set to begin next summer – and “discussions are ongoing about that pedway.” In addition, current design plans also eliminate another pedway crossing Jefferson Street to the Hyatt, though not the one connecting directly to the Marriott, which was built with private funds.

This pedway over Jefferson Street might also be eliminated. | Photo via Google Maps

This pedway over Jefferson Street might also be eliminated. | Photo via Google Maps

Storment added that there is a question of costs related to rebuilding those pedways, in addition to a security issue, as there would be a problem securing access to the convention center lobby from pedways.

Fair Board CEO Rip Rippetoe made the same case to the same committee last Thursday, receiving pushback from Councilwomen Mary Woolridge, Vicki Aubrey Welch and Marilyn Parker.

Asked by Welch why they want tourists to walk through the rain from the Galt House to the convention center, Rippoetoe said the Fair Board and the Convention & Visitors Bureau surveyed clients and found that no one was bothered by the loss of the pedway. Parker questioned whether they bothered to survey any women — saying they wouldn’t want to cross the street — but Rippetoe said that Sweet Adelines International, which brings in 9,000 women for their conferences, did not object. —Joe Sonka

Louisville chefs head to New Albany to open their next restaurant

The future site of Gospel Bird | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

The future site of Gospel Bird | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Chefs Eric Morris and Dustin Staggers are heading across the river for their next concept.

It’s been a whole two months since the Staggers crew opened its second Epic Sammich Co. store, so it was about time for them to announce a new venture.

Here it is: Tentatively called Gospel Bird, the restaurant will be the love child of Morris’ Loop 22 and Staggers’ time at The Monkey Wrench. Gospel Bird is a term for fried chicken that is eaten on Sundays, the traditional church-going day.

The menu will feature dishes including butter beans, rotisserie chicken, cauliflower grits, chicken-fried rabbit and Brussel sprouts. It will cover the South, from the Appalachian Mountains to the low country to New Orleans and hints of Florida — and include some ingredients from New Albany’s farmers market.

“We are just trying to make country food,” said Staggers, noting that all the fried items on the menu will be fried in a cast iron skillet.

Morris added that the atmosphere will fit the food — a complaint diners regularly had about Loop 22.

“This is the restaurant of my dreams,” he said.

The restaurant will be located at 207 E. Main St. in New Albany in a space that many Southern Indiana residents will remember as The Irish Exit Ale House, a dive bar that was popular when the city’s revitalization was in its infancy.

The pair decided to open in New Albany, Morris said, partly because Louisville is becoming saturated with restaurants.

“It’s growing. It’s beautiful,” he said, giving a nod to Indiana restaurant owners Laura Buckingham, Ian Hall and Ryan Rogers. “They have really made (New Albany) what it is.”

The restaurant will seat from 105 to 120 people between the dining room and bar areas. When the weather is nice, there will be additional seating on the large back patio.

Property owner and general contractor Steve Resch is building the bar and renovating the patio, and the space is getting a complete overhaul. Morris and Staggers declined to say how much the renovations cost and who is investing in Gospel Bird.

The duo hope to have live bluegrass a few times a week and described the atmosphere as lively.

“We want people to come here and feel comfortable and be regulars,” Morris said.

Lighting in the restaurant will be dimmed to make the bright open kitchen the focal point.

“The show of that restaurant is the kitchen,” Staggers said. And, he added, “We are going to be in the kitchen cooking, because I’ve kind of turned into a restaurant owner.” Sous chef Lamont Bobo will be in the kitchen as well.

Gospel Bird will be open for dinner daily and weekend brunch to start, but hours could eventually expand. It’s slated to open in late January. —Caitlin Bowling

Metro sees areas of common interest in GLI’s legislative agenda

The city’s economic development chief said the city sees some areas of common interest in the local chamber of commerce’s legislative agenda, which the agency revealed last week.

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, chief of Louisville Forward, said the city, like Greater Louisville Inc., supports expanded gaming and “some type of tax reform,” though the city has not identified any specifics.

While the city competes well against its peers in property and sales taxes, she said Metro’s occupational tax impedes economic development.

The tax removes 2.2 percent of people’s paychecks if they live and work in the Louisville metro area, and 1.45 percent if they only work there.

Wiederwohl said the city also shares some of GLI’s concerns on historic landmarking, planning and zoning laws.

Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, GLI’s senior vice president of public affairs and strategy, said last week that such laws are “outrageous” relics of the past that lead to “protracted battles in the court of law and public opinion.”

Sarah Davasher-Wisdom

Sarah Davasher-Wisdom

Davasher-Wisdom had said that state laws are “allowing activists to stage endless appeals” which have tied up tens of millions of dollars worth of development projects and have prompted some developers to pursue projects in other states.

Wiederwohl said that while she could not point to any specific examples of developers who had walked away from investing in Louisville, the city shared GLI’s concerns about the ease with which appeals can be filed.

Other states have created land use courts to keep such cases out of the traditional judicial system, Wiederwohl said, but she was not sure whether that’s the right answer for Kentucky.—Boris Ladwig

Speaking of GLI: Kent Oyler sorry for jokes at chamber of commerce dinner

Greater Louisville Inc. CEO Kent Oyler emailed an apology to some attendees of the chamber’s elected official appreciation dinner last week, responding to criticism of jokes he an other speakers told at the roast-styled dinner.

Kent Oyler

Kent Oyler

“There were several unscripted comments made by me and other speakers that were offensive to some in the audience,” Oyler wrote in an email sent Thursday. “I want you to know that was absolutely not our intent… Having heard several concerns, I ask you to please accept my personal apology if you found any part of the program offensive.”

The dinner’s emcee, former state legislator Bob Heleringer, told most of the jokes during the dinner for the second consecutive year, recycling several themes – like Hillary Clinton as a witch, and state Rep. Jim Wayne as a communist. Oyler’s email said the event “is a nod to the comedic and often irreverent White House Correspondents Dinner” and that “unfortunately, we cannot always control everything said from the podium.”

However, most of the jokes told by Heleringer and Oyler clearly were prepared in advance and read from a script, in some cases with accompanying slides projected for the audience. After Oyler told a premature ejaculation joke directed at a husband and wife in the audience, for example, he told a joke about the chamber providing prostitutes for Heleringer at “the best known hotel in town,” with a photo of the Economy Inn on the screen.

The Economy Inn has long had a reputation as a hotbed for prostitution, but this year neighbors and a former employee accused the motel of housing minors engaged in prostitution (i.e., sex trafficking), which the Economy Inn’s owners have vigorously denied.

While GLI fashions this event after the White House Correspondents Dinner, those are usually emceed by nationally renowned comedians. Irreverent comedy can go off the tracks in the hands of amateurs, so perhaps they might want to leave that to the professionals. —Joe Sonka

Real estate showing to highlight mansion and work of Stephen Rolfe Powell

This mansion in Prospect last sold for $1.8 million in 2011. | Courtesy of Gant Hill & Associates

This mansion in Prospect last sold for $1.8 million in 2011. | Courtesy of Gant Hill & Associates

In a unique spin on a traditional home showing, Gant Hill & Associates is looking to blow potential buyers away with a month-long art show featuring the glass works of Stephen Rolfe Powell in a modern-style mansion in Prospect.

Powell is an internationally known glass artist from Danville, Ky., whose work is featured in permanent collections around the world. His work will be featured throughout the house and also will be available for sale.

The mansion, known as The River Glen House, is located at 5505 Juniper Beach Drive. It last sold in 2011 for $1.8 million and is owned by the Loyd L Ivey General Trust. Its last assessed value was nearly $1.9 million.

The current owner is asking $3.975 million for the mansion, according to the listing.

The house originally was owned by Julie Hinson, president and CEO of Advanced Lifeline Respiratory Services, and Michael Hinson, president of Superior Distributing Co. The four-story home has four bedrooms, four full bathrooms, two half bathrooms, a four car garage and a private dock on the Ohio River, according to the listing.

The real estate company will host a private cocktail party from 6 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 8, and interested parties can schedule a private showing throughout December. RSVP or set up an appointment by contacting Robert Wang at [email protected] —Caitlin Bowling

CGI director at Power Creative leaves to start new firm

Joel Eckert, who worked in CGI (computer-generated imagery) at Power Creative since 2006, has left the company to found his own: Big Little Pictures. BLP is a visuals design company, and currently Eckert is the only employee. On the website, he calls himself “a creative that can think like an engineer.”

The company focuses on visual storytelling through CGI and animation.

Eckert told IL: “Since 2005 I’ve wanted to start my own company but knew I didn’t want to worry about the business side of things until I would be able to handle it without compromising the quality of the work. It took some time, but my experience has prepared me well.”

He said he looks forward to partnering with Power and other local firms. –Melissa Chipman

U of L faculty submit record number of grant applications, reap rewards

During the last fiscal year, University of Louisville faculty submitted a record number of research proposals — 1,357 proposals, which secured $136.8 million in grant awards. This amounts to a 25 percent increase in awards over the previous fiscal year.

“U of L faculty has great ideas which can add knowledge in their fields of study and could potentially be world changing” said Dr. William Pierce, executive vice president for research and innovation. “Now we’re doing a much better job getting those concepts on paper, getting them to the right people and, as a result, securing more funding for research projects springing from U of L.”

More than half of the proposals came from the School of Medicine. —Melissa Chipman

River Ridge’s executive director featured speaker at upcoming luncheon

Jerry Acy, executive director of the River Ridge Development Authority, will be the keynote speaker at a luncheon hosted by the Real Estate Venture Exchange, a Louisville-based membership organization that brings together investors and real estate developers.

Acy will talk about River Ridge Commerce Center, the 6,000-acre business park he oversees in Southern Indiana. The development authority recently started confidential negotiations with a potential property buyer that plans to build a 1.5 million square-foot facility at River Ridge. It would be its largest development to-date.

The luncheon is at 11:30 a.m. at Vincenzo’s, 150 S. 5th St. Advance tickets cost $30 for members and $45 for non-members. The price of entry at the door is $40 for members and $55 for non-members.

Click here to RSVP. —Caitlin Bowling