Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.

Preliminary plans call for Memorial Park to become parking lot

Here is the current layout Memorial Park, a nearly one acre park on South Fourth Street. | Courtesy of Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation

Here is the current layout Memorial Park, a nearly one acre park on South Fourth Street. | Courtesy of Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation

The city-owned Memorial Park at Fourth and Kentucky streets in Old Louisville may become less park and more parking lot.

Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation is in early talks with representatives from Memorial Auditorium and Spalding University to reimagine the 0.94-acre public park. Memorial Park sits across from the auditorium and next to an existing Spalding parking lot with more than 100 spaces.

Jon Reiter, public information supervisor at Louisville Metro Parks And Recreation, and the head of the Louisville Memorial Commission, which oversees Memorial Auditorium, stressed that nothing is set in stone, but the preliminary plans consist of expanding the existing Spalding parking lot into Memorial Park to fill a need for additional spaces in the area.

“We are aware there is a need for more parking there,” Reiter said, adding that Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government uses Memorial Auditorium as a training facility and employees struggle to find parking.

Although he couldn’t say for certain, Reiter said that he believes the park will continue to have the same number of trees as it currently has.

Louisville Memorial Commission chairman Hunter Louis was reticent to talk about the plans.

“We’re really at the very preliminary stages, and the next step is going to be to meet with the appropriate Old Louisville” stakeholders, Louis said. “I’d rather it not be further announced.”

“Until we get feedback from interested parties, we are not going to advance this thing,” he added.

However, some residents already are concerned about the potential changes.

“I can’t imagine tearing up green space in trees, and creating more of a heat island isn’t congruous to the city’s needs,” said Rev. Dr. Greg Moore, who is a member of the Second Street Neighborhood Association and a self-described “tree hugger.”

By his estimation, Moore said, there isn’t a parking shortage in the area. Several years ago, he said he informally counted the amount of parking in the surrounding area. His count was 1,500 parking space, though, he added, he counted private parking at businesses in his total. “If they are vacant on Saturday and Sunday, I see them as parking spaces.”

This year, the city completed its Louisville Urban Heat Management Study, which looked at the role various impervious surfaces, including parking lots, play in increasing the overall temperature and pollution in the city. One side effect of the urban heat island is the worsening of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

“We know that too often the ZIP code where you are born can correlate with negative health outcomes. That’s unacceptable,” Mayor Greg Fischer said after the study was released. “In addition, the added heat causes citizens and businesses to run their air-conditioning longer and higher, which drives up energy costs for citizens and businesses. It also increases pollution, leading to more global warming. It’s a vicious cycle.”

One recommendation from the study was to plant more trees and grass in Louisville’s urban core. —Caitlin Bowling

GLI names keynote speaker for its annual meeting

John Schnatter announcing gift to U of L College of Business in 2015. | Photo by Stephen George

John Schnatter in a 2015 file photo.

John Schnatter, CEO and founder of Papa John’s International, will headline the annual meeting for Greater Louisville Inc., the city’s chamber of commerce.

“2017 marks the 20th anniversary of GLI, and we will be celebrating this milestone with a yearlong theme around innovation,” the speaker announcement states. “John Schnatter is truly one of our region’s most innovative entrepreneurs, and his remarks will be a perfect complement to our theme.”

The annual meeting, which includes networking opportunities, will take place from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Louisville Palace on Wednesday, Jan. 25.

Tickets are on sale now. The cost is $120 for GLI members and $135 for nonmembers; however, prices go up after Dec. 30. Group rates are available.

The ticket price includes access to the meeting, two drink tickets and heavy hors d’oeuvres. —Caitlin Bowling

East End bridge set to open on Dec. 18

In just more than a week, the East End bridge will open to traffic.

The bridge, which connects Clark County, Ind. to Prospect, is a stay cable bridge similar to its counterpart downtown, the Abraham Lincoln Bridge, which opened to limited traffic last December.

The East End bridge has yet to be named and may never have a name other than “East End Bridge,” according to a spokesman with the Indiana Department of Transportation.

“There is no requirement that be East End Bridge be renamed,” Will Wingfield, with INDOT, told Insider Louisville in an email. He added that a name would need to be approved by a resolution passed by both houses of the Indiana General Assembly, which doesn’t reconvene until after the New Year.

The lack of a name won’t delay the bridge from opening on Dec. 18.

To mark the occasion, government officials from Indiana and Kentucky will attend a ribbon cutting that day, with representatives from WVB East End Partners, the company that designed and constructed the East End bridge. The ceremony will be followed by a public caravan across the bridge.

The first 500 residents to register will be invited to drive southbound on Interstate 265 and across the new bridge into Kentucky. Police cars will escort the caravan, and commemorative tokens, up to four per car, will be handed out.

Participants will need arrive at a designated area between 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Expect the caravan to last until 3 p.m., and there will be no bathrooms available.

Those interested can register online starting at 10 a.m. on Dec. 10. People also are encouraged to bring toys to donate to Toys for Tots. U.S. Marines will be on hand to collect donations. —Caitlin Bowling

Au Bon Pain to replace McDonald’s at Norton Children’s Hospital

Au Bon PainFollowing calls to eliminate fast food from its premises, Norton Children’s Hospital has signed a letter of intent with fast-casual chain Au Bon Pain to replace McDonald’s.

The McDonald’s store, which is located in the lobby, will close at 11:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9, according to a news release. The space will then be renovated to accommodate Au Bon Pain, a cafe that serves soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps and bakery treats. It will open sometime next year.

“Hospital leadership reviewed numerous retail options based on several criteria, including a restaurant size of 1,500 to 2,500 square feet, which is smaller than McDonald’s and will enable us to use some of that space to accommodate much-needed clinical services,” the release stated. “Other requirements included a varied menu with healthy options, flexible hours to include breakfast and later evening hours and the ability to handle large volume of customers during lunch times.”

Au Bon Pain has more than 300 Au Bon Pain locations worldwide, more than 70 of which are located in hospitals and medical centers.

There are currently no Au Bon Pain stores in Louisville; however, one is slated to open in the University of Louisville’s Kornhauser Library, according the university’s website. —Caitlin Bowling

Mile Wide Beer Co. opens today

MileWide_Logo_1_PrimaryLast month, Insider gave you a sneak peek at the new Mile Wide Beer Co. on Barret Avenue, situated below Diamond Billiards and Pub (formerly Jillian’s). Co-owner and acting Mile Wide spokesman Scott Shreffler told us the brewery has been two-and-a-half years in the planning, and now he and his partners are opening the doors today, Dec. 9, at 2 p.m.

“It’s been a long road to get to this point, but we couldn’t be more excited to join Louisville’s growing and vibrant craft beer scene,” said Shreffler in a press release. “Our goal at Mile Wide is to push boundaries, respect tradition and brew beer with an uncompromising commitment to quality.”

Mile Wide will open with five beers on tap: White Ale, a Belgian-style witbier; Wooderson, a mesquite-smoked blonde ale; Good Evening, Miss, an English-style ale; Uncle Disheveled, a coffee stout brewed with Highland Coffee; and Catalina Breeze, a West Coast Scavenger, the release stated.

Mile Wide is at 636 Barret Ave. —Sara Havens

In other brew news … Louisville Sterling officially purchases two vacant properties on Bardstown Road

Sterling is coming to the Highlands. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

We’ve been following brothers Todd and Ken Jackson since they bought the old Sterling beer brand in 2012, and earlier this year we learned that they had their sites set on a pair of empty city-owned buildings in the Highlands. Well, the deal has finally gone through.

The buildings at 1300-1306 Bardstown Road — formerly the offices for the communications division of Metro’s Emergency Management Administration — recently were purchased for $425,000 by the Jacksons and other Sterling investors, who plan to transform the space into offices, a tasting room, event space, a museum and, last but not least, a brewery.

The Sterling team will restore both buildings, which were built in 1900, as well as reviving the history of the beer brand, which started in Louisville in 1863. —Sara Havens

Political unrest, currency woes sap Brown-Forman sales

Sections of the Turkish military tried to overthrow the civilian government this summer. | Courtesy of Flickr.

Sections of the Turkish military tried to overthrow the civilian government this summer. | Courtesy of Flickr

The strengthening U.S. dollar and political unrest in Russia and Turkey dampened Brown-Forman’s liquor sales in Europe, the company said in its second-quarter report.

Net sales, at $830 million, fell 2.8 percent from the third quarter of 2015, while profit, at $197 million, declined 1.5 percent.

The Louisville-based distiller said that sales fell 1 percent in the U.S. and 13 percent in Europe, including 20 percent in Turkey, 23 percent in the United Kingdom and 76 percent in Russia.

Brown-Forman said, however, that without the impact of the sale of Southern Comfort and Tuaca brands, and the weaker euro and British pound, sales in Europe would have been flat.

Even without those factors, though, sales in Russia and Turkey would have fallen by about 15 percent, the distiller said, as both “suffered from geopolitical instability and weak economic conditions.” The Turkish government this summer averted an attempted military coup.

Third-quarter sales overall would have risen 2 percent without the divestitures and currency impact, Brown-Forman said, thanks to the strength of its American whiskeys — including Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey — and tequila brands such as Herradura and el Jimador.

CEO Paul Varga said in a press release that the company expects sales to grow in the second half of the year in part because of continued investments. He also reaffirmed the company’s previous full-year earnings projections of about $1.76 per share.

The distiller’s shares fell 1.3 percent on Wednesday, but were up more than 2 percent in mid-afternoon trading on Thursday. —Boris Ladwig

Who’s been funded?

healthcare-asset-network-logoAt the Venture Connectors monthly luncheon on Wednesday, EnterpriseCorp Director Lisa Bajorinas updated the community of entrepreneurs and investors about recent capital that has gone to local companies. Those receiving funding include:

  • The Healthcare Asset Network: $3 million. HAN helps health care companies buy and sell excess medical equipment. Its funders include David Jones Sr., the Kentucky Enterprise Fund and Lunsford Capital.
  • Insider Louisville: $1.5 million. The local media company received funds from several investors, including David Jones Jr. and Doug Cobb.

Other companies that received funds include Liberate Medical ($250,000), MobileServe ($200,000), Advanced Energy Materials ($150,000), IOP Technologies ($125,000) and Collabra Innovations ($50,000).

So far this year, 33 companies have received a total of $77.5 million, Bajorinas said. —Boris Ladwig

Local CBRE office hires new associate

Bryan Flaherty | Courtesy of CBRE

International real estate firm CBRE has hired Bryan Flaherty as a new associate in its capital markets and investment properties division in Louisville.

Flaherty previously worked as a business development specialist at Louisville-based investment management firm River Road Asset Management and as a benefit analyst at Mercer, according to an announcement about Flaherty’s hiring.

“Bryan’s expertise in business development, sales strategy and planning will be a tremendous advantage for CBRE and our clients,” David Hardy, managing director with CBRE in Louisville, said in the announcement.

Flaherty graduated from the University of Kentucky, with a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics, and obtained his MBA from Indiana University Southeast.

CBRE opened an office in Louisville in 1996 and employs about 35 people locally. —Caitlin Bowling

Correction: Jon Pyles invested in Insider Louisville in 2014 and was not involved in the most recent round of investment.