Welcome to the Jan. 25 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Whiskey Row on track for 2017 open, work to stabilize buildings continues

The stabilizing poles will be removed in June. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

The stabilizing poles will be removed in June. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

In June, the large concrete poles stabilizing three Main Street façades will come down, and new construction will start on 111 Whiskey Row, a project that was disrupted by a fire last July.

The preliminary stabilization work is nearly completed on the buildings at 111, 113 and 115 W. Main St. Workers now are drilling into the ground and constructing a steel and concrete structure inside the buildings to shore up their walls and façades.

“Prior to the fire, we had done a lot of work to stabilize the already existing heavy timber and masonry structure. The fire took out so much of that initial structure,” said Valle Jones, founder of commercial real estate development company Mayin LLC. “We will have to build back what we lost.”

Jones is developing 111 through 115 W. Main St. with Craig Greenberg, a founding partner at 21C Museum Hotel. Unnamed financial backers are helping fund the project, which will include apartments, office space and restaurants.

Although the fire pushed the project timeline back and destroyed much of the original infrastructure, Valle is positive.

“It’s pretty much all good news,” she said when asked last week about the project’s progress. “The really good news is some of the most distinct features are intact.”

Workers hand sorted bricks from the buildings and were able to save some that will be used to recreate the original painted brick walls.

“We will use every drop of old brick that we can and where we can’t we will try to get brick that is as close a match as possible,” Valle said. “When we are finished, you won’t see the steel and concrete.”

Weather is not expected to impact the project’s deadline — summer 2017 — since all the current work is taking place on the lower levels of the buildings, which did not sustain ceiling damage.

Next door to 111 Whiskey Row at 117 and 119 W. Main St., Brown-Forman Corp. is still waiting on the stabilization work to be completed before building out its planned four-story Old Forester Distillery. The project will cost an estimated $45 million.

There is no timeline for when the build-out of the distillery will begin.

“We are largely dependent on the work next door being resolved,” said Wendy Treinen, public relations manager for Brown-Forman.

Brown-Forman received a building permit from the city on Jan. 19 for $22.55 million worth of work, including restoration and repair of the façade, replacing windows, repairing the roof and creating bare bones space for a restaurant.

The building permit is the first mention of a restaurant at the space. Treinen said she did not have any additional information to provide.

“We are leaving our options open at this point and exploring possibilities,” she said.

The distillery is expected to open sometime in 2017. —Caitlin Bowling

Lawsuit against CafePress dismissed

CafePressLogoA patent infringement lawsuit against Louisville-based merchandise maker CafePress Inc. has been dismissed.

Headwear maker American Needle Inc. had claimed in a suit filed in District Court in Illinois that CafePress was infringing upon a patent that describes an Internet sales process by which customers can manipulate the appearance of the object they are buying.

However, U.S. District Court Judge John W. Darrah, dismissed the suit late last week, saying the Supreme Court “has long held that … laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas are not patentable.”

Darrah wrote that American Needle’s patent “claims an abstract idea and lacks an inventive concept that transforms the nature of the claim into a patent-eligible application.”

CafePress said in October that it was moving its headquarters to the East End, along Shelbyville Road. The company announced in November that third-quarter net revenues, at $19.5 million, had fallen 25 percent, while gross profit fell 13 percent to $8 million.Boris Ladwig

More headwind for Aetna-Humana merger

Humana HQ by nightAetna’s proposed acquisition of Louisville-based Humana would probably raise costs for seniors and taxpayers, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress.

The $37 billion deal has been approved by shareholders of both companies but is still being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The CAP said last week that the merger would “reduce competition in areas where the insurers currently overlap, but it also would foreclose future competition in other areas and markets in which the insurers do not currently compete.

“As a result, the Aetna-Humana merger likely would increase premiums for seniors. … The competition between the two insurers lowers Aetna’s annual premiums by up to $302 and Humana’s annual premiums by $43. In the absence of this competition, premiums would be higher by these amounts. Under the merger, premiums could increase by even more as a result of the greater market power of the new company.”

The CAP also said the merger likely would “increase costs to the Medicare program and increase the federal budget deficit.”

While the companies have said the deal would benefit consumers, the merger has received strong criticism from various camps, including the American Medical Association, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton and the American Antitrust Institute.

Humana, the Fortune 500 company founded by Louisville attorneys David Jones Sr. and Wendell Cherry in 1961, employs about 12,000 in Louisville.Boris Ladwig

Macaron Bar sets new timeline for NuLu open

Macaron Bar displayed its many colored macarons to support the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision. | Courtesy of Macaron Bar's Facebook

Macaron Bar displayed its many colored macarons to support the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision. | Courtesy of Macaron Bar’s Facebook

“We’re still coming,” Patrick Moloughney, owner of Macaron Bar, assured Insider Louisville. “Unfortunately, we’ve been delayed about three months.”

Macaron Bar, a Cincinnati bakery that specializes in multi-colored, multi-flavored macarons, was supposed to open at 707 E. Market St. in Louisville before the holidays, IL previously reported.

However, Moloughney said, it took longer than expected for the landlord to get the property permits and complete a basic build-out of the space.

Macaron Bar got keys to the former Revolver space on Jan. 1 and now must secure food licenses, permits and complete its own one to two month build-out. That includes lighting, refrigeration systems, a dishwashing station, counters, cabinets, display cases and other furniture.

The bakery’s new open date will be sometime in April, Moloughney said. But the company is attending two local fund-raisers before then. Macaron Bar will be serving sweets at Chocolate Dreams, an event for nonprofit GuardiaCare Services on Feb. 1, and the Bottoms Up Bash, a Colon Cancer Prevention Project event on March 4.

“We will be down there trying to build some awareness,” he said.

In the meantime, the company started talked to General Growth Properties, the company that owns Oxmoor Center and Mall St. Matthews, about opening a Macaron Bar kiosk in Oxmoor Center this summer. Macaron Bar already has a kiosk at Kenwood Towne Centre, a Cincinnati mall run by General Growth Properties.

Also, Macaron Bar is still searching for another location, possibly in the Highlands, where it could open a local kitchen hub that would make macarons daily for its nearby locations. —Caitlin Bowling

Gill Holland plans to expand his Portland Investment Initiative

Gill Holland | Photo provided by Venture Connectors

Gill Holland | Photo provided by Venture Connectors

Developer and Louisville Metro Council candidate Gill Holland is adding to the scope of his Portland Investment Initiative.

More than two years ago, he kicked off the $24 million, 10-year initiative aimed at revitalizing the low-income Portland neighborhood, which has about 1,400 vacant and abandoned properties.

At last week’s Yearlings Club panel discussion series, Holland said he plans to announce a related $50 million initiative. It will focus on revitalizing areas from Portland Avenue and 26th Street down to Dumesnil and 28th streets.

Although he declined to disclose any more details, Holland said the project will connect his efforts in Portland to the Russell and California neighborhoods in the heart of the West End.

Holland also said he soon plans to announce a new scholarship program called “Louisville Goes to College.” Again, he declined to say more. —Caitlin Bowling

Stock slide continues through year’s third week

Shaken by economic slowdowns in China and Brazil, weak earnings reports and a tumbling oil price, markets continued their slide last week. Take a look at the chart below to see how some stocks of local importance have fared so far this year, compared to the S&P 500. The chart shows the price change, in percent, since Dec. 31. Boris Ladwig

Stocks YTD

The 800 Building opens model of upgraded apartments

The 800 Building | Photo by Steve Kaufman

The 800 Building | Photo by Steve Kaufman

Owners of The 800 Building downtown have set up a model apartment to sell potential residents on the 53-year-old building before its $32 million overhaul is complete.

People can tour the model from noon to 4 p.m. any day of the week, or schedule an appointment.

Michigan-based developer Village Green bought The 800 Building last summer and renamed it 800 Tower City Apartments. The company is increasing the number of units from 264 to 286 and giving the whole building a total renovation.

New features will include a rooftop swimming pool; a 24-hour fitness center; 24-hour concierge service; an outdoor yoga patio; a business center and conference room with Wi-Fi; a private movie theater with lounge seating; a private garage with reserved spaces; an on-site restaurant with outdoor seating; and a bar, fireplace and gourmet kitchen on the 29th floor.

For more on the new look, check out Steve Kaufman’s exclusive with Village Green CEO Jonathan Holtzman. —Caitlin Bowling

Louisville No. 18 on list of ‘future-ready’ cities

Findings from the Dell Future Ready Economies Model ranking America’s most “future-ready” cities place Louisville at No. 18. The findings were based on criteria developed at the 2015 Strategic Innovation Summit: Enabling Economies for the Future, hosted by Harvard University and sponsored by Dell.

According to a Dell news release, “The summit identified three primary characteristics of Future Ready Economies: the ability to attract people who are engaged in and open to lifelong learning that drives innovation; businesses that thrive in collaborative environments; and infrastructure that provides platforms for people to engage, collaborate, learn and innovate.”

Louisville gets some specific love in the article reporting the findings. The article explains that the ranking was not about performing “better” than other cities but about finding our city’s strengths and capitalizing on them.

“For instance, Louisville was impressive. They seem to be set up to take advantage of natural advantages they have,” said James Diffley, one of the data scientists who conducted the study. “Is Louisville going to do better than San Jose? No, but I think Louisville will get the best out of their potential.”

There are no cities in our region in the top 15. Chicago only outranks us by one. Cincy, Indy and Nashville did not make the top 25. Columbus is No. 24.

See the top 25 here. —Melissa Chipman

Pizza Hut serving alcohol at several newly renovated stores

The restaurant redesign | Courtesy of Pizza Hut

The restaurant redesign | Courtesy of Pizza Hut

It’s not 100 percent certain that Pizza Hut will start selling alcohol nationwide, but the chances seem high.

TheStreet reported that Pizza Hut is selling alcohol at several stores in Texas that were recently renovated — a move likely aimed at attracting customers to a brand that has disappointed.

The Texas-based Yum! Brands subsidiary is undergoing a major overhaul of about 700 U.S. stores.

The design is more modern, similar to changes seen at restaurant companies such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and sister company KFC. The new stores include drive-thrus, outdoor seating and walls of windows.

“The franchisees have committed a number that at least starts with a ‘B’ (billions of dollars) on transforming the [Pizza Hut] assets,” Yum CEO Greg Creed told TheStreet in a prior interview. “I actually think that the biggest surprise, or the upside surprise, that may quietly shock everybody is the turnaround in our Pizza Hut performance.” —Caitlin Bowling

Louisville Film Society adds two new board members

louisville filmThe Louisville Film Society has added two new people to its board: Mary Clay Boland and Kaveh Zamanian.

Boland worked in New York for 14 years and recently returned to her hometown of Louisville. She worked on casting over 40 pilots including “Everwood,” “Smallville,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Without a Trace,” wining two Emmys for her work as a casting director. 

Zamanian is a psychologist and psychoanalyst who recently closed his practice to pursue his passion for bourbon and rye. He is the founder and CEO of Rabbit Hole Distillery, a craft distillery that will be located in the heart of NuLu and is planned to open in 2017.

LFS Chairman of the Board Stu Pollard said in a news release, “These two exciting additions represent our commitment to making LFS a more impactful presence in Louisville. Between Mary Clay’s extensive Industry experience and Kaveh’s entrepreneurial success/spirit, we have two new strong and distinct voices who will guide our board and bring an infusion of fresh thinking to our organization.” –Melissa Chipman

In other board news: Frazier History Museum adds three new members

Frazier History Museum

Frazier History Museum

With all eyes focused on building the biggest and best new bourbon experience in downtown Louisville, Frazier History Museum has just added three new board members. Todd Spencer, president and CEO of Doe-Anderson; John R. McCall, member of Frost, Brown, Todd LLC; and Renee Reynolds, community and cultural volunteer, will join the board roster of 14 for a three-year term.

“We are so excited to have this depth and breadth of experience added to our board,” said Frazier Board of Directors Chair Jane Adam in a press release. “We welcome this level of community involvement and expertise as we transition the museum to the Home for the Heart of Kentucky, which includes the design and development of our new bourbon gateway project.”

Spencer has worked at Doe-Anderson for 23 years, becoming only the sixth president in the company’s 100-year history. McCall’s law practice focuses on the fields of federal and state utility law, labor and employment, corporate governance and compliance, as well as mergers, acquisitions and litigation. And Reynolds once worked at the Institute of Defense Analyses (IDA) in Washington, D.C., which is an independent validation and verification organization for the Department of Defense (DoD). She currently serves on the boards of the National Council of Jewish Women, Elderserve, the Kentucky Opera and the Louisville Fencing Center.

The new bourbon project, which will serve as the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, was announced last spring in partnership with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. In April, they estimated construction and installation would take at least two years. —Sara Havens