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. Happy Holidays!

New Directions Housing Corp. to rehabilitate a dozen properties in Shelby Park

One of the houses that New Directions Housing Corp. recently purchased. | Courtesy of Jefferson County PVA

Twelve vacant and abandoned houses in the Shelby Park neighborhood will get new life.

New Directions Housing Corp. recently bought eight properties for $270,000 and, with help from River City Housing, will renovate them and four others. The majority of the houses are on East Ormsby Avenue, while the others are located on Camp, Kentucky and Hancock streets.

The purchase came after “years of efforts by not only New Directions but many, many other parties,” Kitty McKune, New Directions’ executive vice president of development and general counsel, said in an email to city officials, New Directions staff and other nonprofit leaders.

The properties have been vacant for 15 to 25 years and likely were headed for foreclosure, McKune told Insider, but the property owner’s decision to finally sell the houses, which faced multiple liens, eliminated the need to go through the lengthy foreclosure process.

The total estimated project cost is $1.4 million. The Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund is giving a total of $400,000 to River City Housing and New Directions to help pay for the acquisition and rehabilitation. New Directions also will use leftover funds from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program to cover part of the cost.

When the renovations are completed, the eight houses New Directions bought will be sold to homeowners who earn 80 percent of the area median income ($53,120 a year) or less. The other four will be listed at market rate.

“This victory is a true ‘feel good’ story in an era when, at least at a federal level, there is not much good news to share in the story of neighborhood revitalization and affordable housing. This victory comes at an especially important time for the residents of Shelby Park, many of whom were so recently victims of unexpected and devastating flooding,” McKune said in the email. “In darkness, there can be light.”

As a result of the purchase, Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government will receive nearly $100,000 in civil penalties and more than $14,000 in back taxes owed on the properties, according to New Directions leaders. The renovations will also improve property values.

“After (New Directions)’s rehab work is completed, we anticipate increasing property values well in excess of $1 million, not to mention the continued positive impact on the neighborhood as a whole,” Gus Thomas, director of real estate development for New Directions, said in a separate email. “Therefore, we can all agree our persistent efforts from all parties involved has been well worth the time.” —Caitlin Bowling

Bulleit Distilling Co. to add a visitor’s center to its Shelbyville distillery next year

A rendering of Bulleit Distilling Co., before the visitor’s center was announced. | Photo by ProofMediaMix

In March, Insider took a short trip out to Shelbyville to check out the brand new, $115 million distillery built by Bulleit Distilling Co. and its parent company Diageo. We frolicked among the site’s 300 acres, snapping photos of the working distillery, five rick houses, offices and state-of-the-art features like solar panels for heating purposes.

It was only missing one thing, however — a visitor’s center where others could experience the wonders of a working Kentucky distillery situated in the farmlands of Shelby County. Thanks to a recent incentive package from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority, that’s about to change.

Bulleit plans to break ground next year on a 9,000-square-foot, $10 million visitor’s center that’ll bring thousands of tourists and Kentuckians alike to the campus. The distillery said it received a state tourism incentive grant of $2.25 million over 10 years for the project. Construction will take about a year once things get underway.

At the moment, Bulleit runs its tours out of the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Shively, and Insider was told Bulleit will continue to utilize that space along with the new visitor’s center.

In a press release, Barry Becton, senior director of federal affairs and whiskey at Diageo North America, said they are thrilled to have received approval of an incentive package, and they wouldn’t have been able to tackle this next step without the help of Kentucky legislators and the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.

“We also thank the people and leadership of Shelby County, especially County Judge-Executive Dan Ison and State Sen. Paul Hornback, for their continued support of the distillery as we look to build a Visitor Center that we expect will bring thousands of visitors to the community each year,” said Becton. —Sara Havens

Audubon Park hopes other small cities join an effort to lure NBA to Louisville

The Audubon Park City Council passed a resolution this week supporting the long-running efforts to lure an NBA franchise to Louisville, closely resembling a similar resolution passed by Metro Council in February.

But beyond extolling the positive economic impact of an NBA or WNBA team moving to Louisville, the council resolution of the small city of 1,500 between Poplar Level and Preston Highway went a step further by encouraging all of the other 83 incorporated small cities in Jefferson County to follow their lead and pass an NBA resolution as well, sending the league a stronger message of support.

“This is an opportunity for the city to unite, not just for a sports team, but for a cause which would place Louisville on the map as a world-class city,” says Audubon Park Councilor Andrew Klump.

Investors and city leaders have tried and failed to lure an NBA franchise to Louisville for decades, but such hopes have flared up again recently with reports that the league is considering adding two new expansion teams in the near future. Another possible reason for hope is the recent departure of UofL men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich, who local “NBA2Lou” advocates have long suspected of discouraging efforts to bring an NBA team to the city.

In fact, a Bloomberg report last week claimed that local investors had an agreement to move the Charlotte Hornets to Louisville in the early 2000s, only to have Jurich and the newly arriving Pitino prevent that from going forward, not wanting to share an arena. Former NBA commissioner David Stern was quoted as thinking at the time that “if Rick Pitino doesn’t want us there, why are we going there?”

Seattle is widely regarded as the favorite to receive a new franchise once the NBA decides to expand or a team chooses to relocate, with Louisville then in the mix with other cities such as Mexico City, Virginia Beach, Las Vegas and Vancouver. —Joe Sonka

UofL hires new COO from Central Washington University

Incoming UofL COO Joseph Han

The University of Louisville announced this week that it had hired Joseph Han – the vice president of operations at Central Washington University – as its new chief operating officer.

Han — who will start his new position in March, pending board of trustees approval — has 27 years of experience in higher education leadership, with interim President Greg Postel stating in a press release Han’s “ability to create a vision and set long-term goals for an institution will serve our three campuses well.”

Both the COO and CFO positions have been filled on an interim basis since Harlan Sands left UofL in January of 2017, held by Lee Smith and Susan Horwath, respectively. Jonathan Pruitt is set to start his job as the permanent CFO in January.

“The University of Louisville has a reputation that is known throughout the country, and I am drawn to its commitment to achieve pre-eminence as a nationally recognized metropolitan research university,” stated Han in the press release. “I look forward to building a collaborative process to set and achieve goals that support the operations of three distinct and growing campuses. This opportunity is both exciting and engaging, and I look forward to joining the Cardinal family.”

Community Foundation of Louisville giving out more than $1.3 million in college scholarships

The Community Foundation of Louisville is now taking applications for academic scholarships ranging from $500 to $10,000 for the 2018-2019 school year.

The foundation will give out more than $1.3 million in college scholarships from nearly 100 fund accounts. Most of the applications for the various scholarships are due by March 15.

Using an online system, applicants will be automatically matched with potential scholarships they are eligible for. Scholarships are available for both traditional and non-traditional students, including a scholarship for students who want to become EMTs, scholarships for minority students and scholarships for women.

Those wishing to set up a scholarship can contact the Community Foundation of Louisville’s stewardship officer Meredith Zahirovic. The fund must be a minimum of $25,000. —Caitlin Bowling

Papa John’s moving into the West Indies

Papa John’s is expanding into The Bahamas. | Photo by Ildar Sagdejev

Papa John’s International signed a development deal with PPJ Bahamas, which will open five restaurants during the next 36 months in the Bahamas. The first will open in the capital Nassau in mid-2018.

“We are assembling a fantastic team who are looking forward to delivering exceptional service to our guests and working together with our local community,” John Wilson, CEO for PPJ Bahama, said in a news release. “We intend to share our success and give back to the wider Bahamian community we will be serving.”

No word on whether Papa John’s will convert its estimated delivery times from Western time to island time.

“John is a well-known entrepreneur in the Bahamas, and his expertise and strong track record for success will serve Papa John’s well,” Tim O’Hern, senior vice president and chief development officer at Papa John’s, said in the release. “We remain enthusiastic about our growth in the Caribbean.”

Papa John’s is looking to expand in other Caribbean markets and Latin America with additional franchisees. —Caitlin Bowling

In Brief

Endeavor Louisville has added Chuck Denny, regional president of PNC Bank, to its board of directors.

Frost Brown Todd members elected Robert V. Sartin to serve as chairman of the firm’s nine-person executive committee for a three-year term beginning Jan. 1.

Venture Connectors will feature Jon Bostock, chief operating officer for Lexington-based Big Ass Fans, for its Jan. 3 luncheon.

Omni Louisville is hosting job fairs Jan. 18-20. The first job fair will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 18 and 19 at the KFC Yum! Center. The second job fair will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Jan. 20 at Omni’s office, 211 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.

Greater Louisville Inc. said it will award its 2017 Silver Fleur-de-Lis on Jan. 17 to Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Kindred Healthcare and Louisville City FC. The award recognizes “outstanding commitments and achievements (that make) the Greater Louisville community a better place in which to live and work.”