One-third of the roughly $8 billion developers are investing in Jefferson County during the next two years is funding projects in the Central Business District.
Those projects aren’t just confined to downtown’s two main thoroughfares, Main and Fourth streets, anymore either, said Rebecca Matheny, executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership. In fact, the LDP plans to hire “construction concierges” who will help mitigate any inconvenience visitors experience as a result of construction around downtown.
“We are really spreading the vibrancy, really spreading that energy,” Matheny said. “By 2018, we are going to have a totally different type of urban core.”
A high-dollar project that is and will continue to cause some disruptions downtown is the renovation of the Kentucky International Convention Center.
Richard Polk, principal at EOP Architects, spoke at a luncheon Monday for the chamber of commerce Greater Louisville Inc. There he talked about the renovation, which his company is helping oversee, and unveiled new renderings of the convention center shown above.
The convention center currently “kind of lacks in identity, and if you are more than a block and a half from the building, you hardly know it’s there,” Polk said. With at least six different entrances, the convention center could be confusing to navigate if someone entered at the wrong place, he said.
Although the building will only be three stories, the $207 million renovation will make the Kentucky International Convention Center stand out amid downtown and connect the building to the street, with walls of glass covering the exterior, Polk noted in his presentation.
“We want to flood this space with natural light, which is kind of the opposite of what was done more than 40 years ago,” he said. The company plans to seek a LEED Silver certification for the convention center.
The design also will create “a public front door” into the center along Fourth Street that will serve as the primary entry for convention goers.
Polk called the convention center “a tired facility,” but said the main impetus for the project was the 200,000-square-foot exhibit hall on the third floor. That amount of square footage is a magic number that will allow Louisville to attract larger conventions, trade shows and other events. To make room for the large exhibit hall, the third floor will cantilever out about 15 feet over Market and Jefferson streets.
“This is the heart and soul of the building,” he said. “This is really the reason for the building.”
The renovated Kentucky International Convention Center will open its doors no later than July 1, 2018, Polk said, adding that the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau is already booking conventions for July 2018.
“There is not room for any slippage there,” he said.
The Louisville CVB is paying for the majority of the renovation. The organization took out a 30-year, $148 million bond that will be paid back using the transient room tax charged to hotel bills.