Monday Biz Briefing: Stites & Harbison to Nucleus, Angel's Envy to the Vermont American building and other scoops
Welcome to the December 10 top secret, always confidential Monday Business Briefing.
These are biz tips Insider Louisville staff and contributors and hangers-on have collected during the past few days, a few of which are NOT double-verified like Insider Louisville’s daily reporting.
But as always, this is information from sources who are not just insiders, but who are players.
This past week, we’ve heard collectively about a dozen major real estate deals including a planned multi-family project we can’t quite nail down in St. Matthews. All good news after too many years of recession. And we get the feeling that if our nation doesn’t go over the fiscal cliff, Louisville could attract more talent, retail, capital and national buzz during the next decade than any time in its 200-year history.
Anyway, behind Monday Business Briefing door No. 1, we have a deal which includes ….
• multiple commercial real estate sources buzzing about partners at giant Louisville law firm Stites & Harbison considering taking three floors of the nearly complete Nucleus building. Which would be – if it happens – a turning point for the $20 million spec building the University of Louisville is building at Floyd and Market streets. Stites currently is in the Aegon Center/Mercer Tower. All that said, whatever happened to the research park? Just so we don’t get accused of distorting the issue, this is directly from the Nucleus website:
As an entity, Nucleus’ work is integral to the development of the research park currently underway at UofL’s Haymarket 30-block property in downtown Louisville. In this role, Nucleus is creating a vibrant technology business district at Haymarket along the city’s Healthcare / University / Riverfront corridor.
So far, we have a law firm (maybe), The Center for Lifelong Wellness and Aging Care, the International Center for Long Term Care Innovation (whatever those are) and a lick and a promise that seven other companies are coming, per Vickie Yates Brown. Instead of a company with experience recruiting high-tech, health-sciences innovators and researchers, NTS has the leasing contract. NTS is a fine firm, but it develops shopping centers, apartment complexes and office buildings. It doesn’t fill them.
• Speaking of NTS, just three months after being appointed to lead the Kentucky Health Cooperative, Gov. Steve Beshear’s former Cabinet for Heath and Family Services director Janie Miller is taking 15,000 square feet of prime office space in an NTS North Hurstbourne Parkway office complex, say sources. As CEO of Kentucky Health Cooperative Inc., Kentucky’s nonprofit health cooperative mandated by the Affordable Care Act, Miller has a $59 million federal loan from the Department of Health and Human Service to get the ball rolling in Kentucky. This could be a good thing, because the cooperative concept is meant to let individuals and small businesses band together for economies of scale. Any “profits” from the coops will be plowed back into them to reduce premiums. The coop idea didn’t go anywhere in Republican states where governors refused to participate. In Kentucky, the smart money said the coop headquarters was going to either Lexington or Frankfort. But our source says this East End office, which has only six employees so far, will be the HQ. Miller has all of next year to establish the cooperative. More as we know more.
• Insiders tell us Angel’s Envy is very, very close to finalizing a deal to take the Vermont American building, or at least the half of it that’s still standing across from Slugger Field. The east side of the abandoned industrial complex on Main Street was demolished in July to make way for an off-ramp for the planned downtown bridge. There’s an increasing likelihood the west side will be the Bardstown-based start-up distller’s new home and an urban bourbon stop, according to our sources. The one thing we’ve never quite figured out is who’s putting up the money for Angel’s Envy. We know from personal experience – a new bourbon brand has to buy its first bottling from Heaven Hill or some other commercial spirits producers on the way to developing its own distillery and aging warehouses. An EXTREMELY capital-intensive undertaking. Alltech’s new Town Branch brand has Dr. Pearse Lyon’s giant, diversified company behind its new $10 million distillery in downtown Lexington. Heaven Hill, which is asking for a city bond issues to build their downtown distillery, as a privately held spirits powerhouse that approaches – maybe exceeds – Brown-Forman’s $3 billion in annual revenue. So, where is the money coming from for Angel’s Envy? And by the way, this deal comes after Angel’s Envy considered the Progress Paint Building in a deal we told you about back in April, but was never consummated.
• While we’re on the topic of downtown urban bourbon distillery/tourist stops, we hear the properties along West Main Street between the under-construction Michter’s Distillery and the Frazier Museum are very much in play. One sources swears Chicago-based Beam, which is larger than Brown-Forman ranked by gross revenue, will build a downtown urban bourbon facility to promote Maker’s Mark. Another source says no, Brown-Forman is serious about having its own urban distillery. Though that could go in the empty Whiskey Row buildings. Whatever happens, Louisville wins!
• This isn’t “news” to most people in city government, but look for the Louisville Downtown Development Corp. and Louisville Downtown Management District to live together for a while on the way to maybe getting married up. Both entities are important, but both have unrealized potential. They’ll share office space on Fourth Street in a Bill Weyland building on the way to some sort of merger of functions. LDDC is funded by downtown businesses, and is tasked with expanding retail offerings downtown and other big-vision plans and studies. LDMD is funded by a tiny tax on downtown properties and it oversees all those ambassadors in the bright green vests who vacuum the streets and give directions to lost tourists. We hear the Fischer Administration is pushing this to happen sooner, rather than later.
• Locust Grove is seeking companies to bid on what appears to be a major redevelopment at Gen. George Rogers Clark’s Colonial-era home. For the uninitiated, Locust Grove is a museum/ education complex on Blankenbaker Road near River Road. Locust Grove is the preserved section of a large farm that dates back to the late 18th Century, with 55 acres and several out buildings. We waded through pages and pages of this RFP, and this appears to be for a master plan. In their RFP, it states Metro Parks, not the state, owns the park/museum, though the contract will be with the Locust Grove corporation. That master plan will require landscaping, architectural, engineering, interpretive planning and other services. A promising contract/contracts for the right firms.
From the RFP (and the last bit is extremely interesting):
• The plan’s Phase 1, a land
boundary and feature survey, is complete.
• Phase 2, a comprehensive archaeological survey, will
be completed by the end of 2012.
• Phase 3, for which we now seek Qualifications from interested planning firms, includes
coordinating with site staff and Board to identify needs, resources, and goals, working with
community input, for the development of the final Plan itself. This consulting firm will be
chosen based on this Request for Qualifications.
This project will be paid for by Historic Locust Grove, Inc. Because Historic Locust Grove will be
reimbursed for a portion of the expense from Neighborhood Development Funds provided by
the Louisville Metro Council, it has been decided to follow Metro Government purchasing
procedures in the selection of a firm to provide services. The contract, however, will be with
Historic Locust Grove, Inc.; the Metro Government will not be a party to the contract.
• More and more real estate sources say Fletcher, N.C.-based Earth Fare may be looking at the Doll’s Market site on Brownsboro Road for its second Louisville location. We’ve heard this before, right, and got a denial from the chain of boutique healthy-foods-only supermarkets the first time around. Such a deal would put two stores within about five miles of each other along the same highway, with Earth Fare’s first store at The Summit-Louisville. But more than one source says this could be the real deal because behind the scenes, apparently a flea market was one of the options for the Doll’s Market property on the edge of Louisville’s wealthiest neighborhoods … where they have the money and clout to fight such an unwelcome plan. Said one source, “Someone needs to buy that whole property with the Azalea restaurant and the Doll’s Market and just start over.” Amen.
Actual business briefs:
• This is a puzzler: Construction sources tell us the Louisville Water Co. is bringing in teams of contractors next year, with work slated to run during two full years. Digging on this ….
• File this under “why didn’t we think of this?” We hear a fantasy football/fantasy sports bar is planned for Butchertown. Our question is, what will people do while they’re “at work” if they can spend their evenings building their fantasy teams?