Welcome to the Dec. 26 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville. In this end-of-year edition, we recap the most-read articles of 2016 …

A first look inside Germantown Mill Loft’s train car apartment

These three refurbished train cars are available for rent at Germantown Mill Lofts. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Germantown Mill Lofts took the tiny home trend to another level this year.

As part of the apartment development, Underhill Associates refurbished three train cars to be tiny rentals, complete with a kitchen space, a gathering area, a full bath and a lofted bed.

The apartments cater to people who want to limit their personal possessions, but when they first hit the market, renters need to have some means to afford the train cars, which originally was listed for $975 a month. Fortunately for anyone looking for a new place to live next year, one train car is still available for rent, and the rental rate has dropped to $695 a month.

Overall, Germantown Mill Lofts is 91 percent leased, according to Underhill Associates. —Caitlin Bowling

More than $35 million retail center planned along Bardstown Road

Fresh Thyme grocery store has signed a notice of intent for a 30,000-square-foot space. | Renderings by Herschman Architects

A night hearing about the 221,000-square-foot retail center was postponed, meaning Louisville Metro Planning Commission won’t approved plans for the project until next year.

The center could still open out by the Gene Snyder Freeway as planned in 2018, but construction work will start later than originally hoped. The new timeline will depend on when final approvals come through. No new hearing has been scheduled.

Local attorney Bill Bardenwerper said the project would benefit the surrounding community by bringing in new retail as well as adding a traffic light across from Bates Middle School, which he said would help alleviate some existing traffic problems.

Whitehouse, Ohio-based Devonshire REIT is developing the more than $35 million retail center, which is its second project in Louisville, IL reported. The first was a lone CVS Pharmacy on Brownsboro Road.

Fresh Thyme grocery store has signed on as a major tenant for the development; no other tenants have been announced. —Caitlin Bowling

What happened when Haier took over a venerable New Zealand Appliance maker, and what it might mean for GE

Haier’s headquarters in Qingdao, China. | Photo courtesy of Haier.

When Qingdao Haier took over New Zealand appliance maker Fisher & Paykel in 2012, the worries of many Kiwis echoed those voiced by Americans when the Chinese company said it would purchase General Electric Appliances.

They worried about a Chinese conglomerate taking over a venerable domestic company that dates back to 1934. They worried about job cuts. They worried about the loss of an iconic brand.

Many New Zealanders have a real emotional attachment to Fisher & Paykel — much like Americans have to GE — because they grew up with the company’s appliances in their homes, said Chris Adams, who covered the F&P takeover as business reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

The worries weren’t entirely unfounded — but Adams said Haier’s takeover has benefited F&P more than it has hurt. The Chinese company rescued the New Zealand company from under a mountain of debt, invested in the operations and even added engineering jobs.

A Haier spokesman told IL at the time that the company hoped to use its F&P acquisition as a model for the integration of GE Appliances. —Boris Ladwig

Chamber: Louisville needs more people to fill its 31,000 open jobs

With about 31,000 open jobs and few available workers, local chamber officials said in their midyear report that the city had to get more creative about how to attract not just high-wage jobs, but people who could fill them.

Employers including GE Appliances and Ford Motor Co. have said that they are struggling to find workers with the right skills, even at wages that are double the federal minimum wage.
KentuckianaWorks, the regional workforce development board, had said that more than 31,000 jobs were posted in the region in the first quarter. Among high-wage jobs, employers were looking especially for registered nurses — nearly 2,000 of them.
While the region has a low unemployment rate and above average labor force participation, migration to this part of the country has stagnated.

Kent Oyler, CEO of Greater Louisville Inc., said that when it comes to recruiting potential employees from other cities and nations, Louisville had yet to overcome some marketing challenges.

In November, the chamber kicked off LiveInLou as part of its plan to make talent attraction its top economic development priority for the next three years. —Boris Ladwig

Assumption purchases American Legion property on Bardstown Road

The American Legion’s Highland Post 201 formerly occupied the building. | Courtesy of Louisville Metro Government

Assumption bought the property across from the high school back in October for $1.68 million.

“Owning the property allows us to continue to provide parking close to school for our students,” Assumption president Mary Lang told Insider Louisville in an email at the time. “We have not made any decisions regarding the buildings or how we will use them for the future.”

It seems that the high school has had time to evaluate the building since then. Last week, the city sent out a Notice of Intent to Demolish the building at 2919 Bardstown Road.

Assumption applied for a demolition permit, but because the property is eligible for listing in The National Register of Historic Places, there is a waiting period that allows people to dispute the demolition.

If there is no opposition, the permit can be issued as early as Jan. 19.

IL emailed Lang last week to ask about the properties future. However, the school is out for the holiday break. —Caitlin Bowling

John Schnatter meets with Anchorage residents about helicopter concerns

More than 50 guests attended a meeting regarding John Schnatter’s helicopter use.

This summer, the Papa John’s International founder, chairman and CEO, John Schnatter, found himself at odds with some fellow Anchorage resident.

The pizza magnate was putting a helicopter pad on his property so that he could take a helicopter to and from work, which had some neighbors concerned about noise and a potential impact on property values. Schnatter held the meeting to address worries and answer question.

Anchorage doesn’t have any regulations regarding helicopters, so Schnatter is free to use the helicopter as he pleases, but he promised in the meeting to self-impose limitations regarding when he can take off and land. —Caitlin Bowling

Millions in losses force Kroger to close a Louisville store

In November, Kroger Co. shut down its store in Southland Terrace.

Over a period of five years, the 50-year-old Kroger store recorded losses of $4.3 million, which the company said was unsustainable and would only continue.

Some members of the neighborhood mourned the loss of the Kroger, which served the blue-collar neighborhood, noting that customers would now have to travel farther, some on public transit, to get their groceries. —Caitlin Bowling

Liquor superstore opening first Kentucky location in Louisville

We’ve got spirits, yes we do. | Courtesy of Total Wine & More

More liquor quicker and cheaper? Louisville welcomed Total Wine & More this year to the fold, a beer, wine and spirits superstore that opened in The Paddock Shops this fall. It marks the Maryland-based chain’s first foray into Kentucky, making us state No. 19 in its family.

With more than 8,000 wines, 2,500 beers and 3,000 spirits, it truly is a place to lose an afternoon wandering through the aisles like a kid in a candy store. The benefits? Prices are a bit cheaper than some area liquor stores, and it employs 45-55 people, three-fourths of which are full-time jobs. —Sara Havens

Louisville’s Top 10 Most Expensive Neighborhoods of 2015

Our local real estate expert, Tre Pryor, rounded up the most pricey neighborhoods in Louisville, meaning any ‘hood that had at least three homes sell for $500,000 or above. In 2015, there were 415 homes sold above this mark, a jump from 346 the year before.

Harrod’s Glen came in at neighborhood No. 1, with the average sale price of $1,911,667. Rounding out the Top 5 are Cherokee Hills, Spring Farm Place, Spring Farm Lake and Glenview. Interestingly, the neighborhood with the most homes in the survey was Norton Commons with 40, but when compared with the numbers, it came in as Louisville’s 17th most expensive neighborhood. —Sara Havens

‘Getting back to me’: Former Voice-Tribune publisher launches online magazine, finds herself in the process

In August, Tracy Beale — formerly Tracy Blue — was upbeat, as she was just rebuilding her media presence with an “online ‘zine” called Tab’s View.

Beale said she wanted to produce powerful, positive stories about life from different perspectives — what she called “optimistic content.”

Tracy Beale | Photo by Melissa Chipman

The T-A-B in Tab’s View were her initials, and her team consisted of six full-time employees, including Beale, editor Ilyse McCormick, three sales staffers and Beale’s assistant, plus a stable of about a dozen freelancers.

Three months in, Beale pulled the plug. The digital magazine closed after reportedly struggling to garner enough advertising revenue to keep up with staffing and marketing costs.

In a letter Beale dashed off to staff, she wrote in part: “Please be advised that Tab’s View will no longer be in operations. We appreciate your contributions and enjoyed working with each of you.”

And closed out the letter with, “Best of luck in the future,” signed Team Tab.

Even so, Beale told IL in an interview in December that the move would not be permanent and that she was working with a new website designer. She said 2016 had been a rough year and she was going to spend the holidays contemplating the future of Tab’s View. Beale said she won’t give up the mission of the site, but it might come back smaller, as advertising dollars weren’t supporting it as is. —Melissa Chipman

Take a look at downtown Louisville by 2018

Graphic by Louisville Downtown Partnership

Steve Kaufman offered a few smart questions about downtown economic development: “Want to know where downtown is headed? Is all that conversation just talk? Is all that construction just annoying chaos leading to nowhere?”

Fortunately, the questions were not rhetorical, as the Louisville Downtown Partnership produced a small infographic with some answers.

Jeanne Hilt, marketing, communications and events manager for LDP, provided some highlights: By 2018, Louisville’s downtown residential population is expected to grow by 10 percent, as the available number of residential units is expected to grow by 27 percent.

Those folks should have more opportunities for employment as the amount of leasable office space is expected to increase by 4.5 percent in 2018. As a result, the number of Louisvillians working downtown is expected to grow by 4.5 percent in 2018.

“We’re calling it ‘Time Well Spent,’” Hilt said. “It’s our way of letting citizens know that, while all this development will take time, we want them to look ahead to 2018 when this wave of development will be completed and our downtown will be transformed.”

Of course, two big projects are garnering most of the attention: the construction of the Omni downtown and the renovation of the convention center.

“If all this is important to the growth of Louisville — adding jobs, tourism and convention revenue and new young professionals who call the city home — then the snarling traffic and construction impediments might seem a bit more tolerable,” Kaufman concluded. —Mickey Meece

The Connection sues Play Dance Bar and drag performer

Aubrey Jolie

The legal battle over a drag performer’s contract continued throughout the year between the owners of Louisville’s two biggest LGBT nightclubs, The Connection and Play Dance Bar.

The owners of The Connection had already sued up-and-coming local drag performer Bryan Carpio – who performs under the name Aubrey Jolie – for allegedly violating a contract to perform exclusively at their club, but then filed another lawsuit against the owners of Play, accusing them of encouraging Carpio to breach the contract and perform at their club. Carpio’s lawyers argued that he was deceived and coerced into signing the contract in late 2014 for the purpose of receiving payment for one performance, while this summer the Play owners filed a countersuit against The Connection owners, citing an exclusivity contract that Carpio signed with Play four days earlier.

No resolution has been reached in the matter, but Carpio continues to perform at Play. In August, The Connection closed after 28 years of operation downtown, but its owners are planning to open an elaborate $15 million “entertainment campus” in Smoketown in the near future. —Joe Sonka