The Closing Bell: Council OKs Phoenix Hill apartments; historic Main Street building on the market; Brown-Forman shares Old Fo’ Distillery secrets; and more

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.

Metro Council approves Phoenix Hill mixed-use development

The corner is the key to the project, said attorney Bill Bardenwerper.

The corner is the key to the project, said attorney Bill Bardenwerper.

Louisville Metro Council gave Columbus, Ohio-based developer Edwards Cos. the final blessing it needed to move ahead with plans for a four-story, 260-unit apartment building at Baxter Avenue and Broadway.

Council approved the project Thursday evening but noted that if the parking plans change, it will need to go back before council.

With council approval, Edwards can begin demolishing most of the buildings — including Phoenix Hill Tavern — that sit on the property bound by Broadway, Baxter Avenue, Rogers Street and Rubel Avenue. Wardlow Auctions is auctioning off many of the items in Phoenix Hill Tavern before it is leveled.

The company already has demolished the former Mercy Academy building just down Broadway where it plans to a four-story, 195-unit apartment complex.

Thursday, the company reiterated its commitment to both projects after news reports of a $3 million gap in financing. During a Louisville Metro Council zoning committee meeting last week, Edwards’ attorney Bill Bardenwerper, of Bardenwerper, Talbott & Roberts PLLC, told committee members that the company was $3 million short of what it needed to make the project economically feasible.

Bardenwerper then said the company was evaluating all its financing options, including asking the city for more tax incentives. The company has since accepted the city’s original offer of $7.5 million, which Louisville Forward previously told Insider Louisville was the city’s “best and final offer.”

In a letter addressed to Louisville residents, Edwards said:

We are pleased to announce that Edwards Companies has accepted the financial incentive package put forth by Louisville Forward. This package is an essential part of enabling the development of our two projects in Phoenix Hill and the Original  Highlands. This partnership will enable us to continue to progress forward with these transformative projects. Further, we can now effectuate our plan to have five historic homes along Broadway donated to a local, non-profit, preservation group in addition to our preserving the facades of two structures along Baxter and Broadway.

Those five homes were originally set to be torn down, but Edwards changed its plan after multiple meetings with nearby residents. The company did not say what organization would take ownership of the homes nor what they will become.

The company also did not say which two facades it plans to incorporate into the building design, or how it will make up for the $3 million difference. Jon Wood, vice president of capital markets at Edwards, could not be reached for comment by press time.

The letter continued:

Over the past year we have been exploring various financial incentive packages that would allow us to deliver the type of projects that we would be proud of. Financial feasibility is critical to the long term success of these projects. While financial incentives packages are common with urban, in-fill development projects, there is no standard package. They vary with each municipality in which we do business and are unique to the challenges presented.  As such, we have appreciated Louisville’s patience as we worked diligently, but admittedly slowly, to understand the best solution for our projects in the local market.

The letter also notes that Edwards has been working on both projects since 2014, hosting community meetings, talking to government officials and ensuring it had all the necessary parcels, among other preparation work. Edwards said the projects will have a positive impact on the city and concluded the letter with a promise that the company would continue to be a good neighbor. —Caitlin Bowling

Historic Main Street property goes back on the market

Grocers Ice & Cold Storage is located at on East Main Street. | Courtesy of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

Grocers Ice & Cold Storage is located at on East Main Street. | Courtesy of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

The former Grocers Ice & Cold Storage, 609 E. Main St., is once again up for sale, according to an email to media.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet bought the property for $3.6 million in 2010, according to Jefferson County property records. The state department purchased the building and land as part of a right-of-way acquisition tied to the Downtown Crossing portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project.

The state put it up for sale in the fall, but all the bids were rejected because they were too low. The email didn’t say how many bids were received.

This time around, however, the sealed bids must meet a minimum reserve price of $1.2 million, the email states. Bids are due within 60 days and will be opened on June 30.

The property is being opened to the media for touring Friday morning. —Caitlin Bowling

National Tourism & Travel Week coincides with Louisville’s biggest annual event

Thunder Over Louisville helps kick off the Kentucky Derby Festival. | File Photo

Thunder Over Louisville helps kick off the Kentucky Derby Festival. | File Photo

Each year, the U.S. Travel Association celebrates the estimated $2.1 trillion dollars people spend in the United States while traveling.

National Tourism and Travel Week is May 1-7, the same week as the Kentucky Derby, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to Louisville. The Derby is touted as the city’s biggest event of the year. Last year, 170,513 people watched American Pharoah get crowned with the rose garland at Churchill Downs, breaking the previous attendance record.

The Derby and related Kentucky Derby Festival bring in more than $400 million annually in revenues for the region, according to the Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Thunder Over Louisville, for example, generates $56.6 million for Louisville and Southern Indiana, according to a 2011 University of Louisville study. This year, officials with the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau estimated that more than 280,000 people watched the air show and fireworks from the sunny side of the Ohio River.

To mark the week, the Clark-Floyd Counties CTB is hosting an event from 4 to 7 p.m. May 4 at Big Four Station Park to highlight attractions such as Schimpff’s Confectionery, Joe Huber’s Family Farm and Restaurant, the Falls of the Ohio State Park and more.

Two days after the end of National Tourism and Travel Week, the Greater Louisville CVB kicks off its Hometown Tourist Celebration, a marketing effort to get residents to visit the area’s many attractions by offering specials. The celebration runs from May 9-31.

Last year, more than 3,500 residents took advantage of the deals. For more information, check here. —Caitlin Bowling

Brown-Forman’s Campbell Brown shares some secrets on the new Old Forester Distillery

You'll be able to watch coopers assemble barrels directly in front of you. | Courtesy of Brown-Forman

You’ll be able to watch coopers assemble barrels directly in front of you. | Courtesy of Brown-Forman

During a sold-out Whisky Chicks event Wednesday night toasting the past, present and future of Old Forester bourbon, Campbell Brown, the president and managing director of the brand, spilled some secrets of the new $50 million distillery being built on Main Street.

The location of the event was fitting, as it took place in the offices of Execuity — the marketing business of Whisky Chicks founder Linda Ruffenach — directly across from the site of the new distillery on Whiskey Row. As Brown addressed a room of about 50, behind him outside the overly large window hung the banner “Old Forester Distillery: Coming Soon.”

Brown talked at length about some of the unique activities that’ll be a part of the 60,000-square-foot space, including a rooftop venue with a bar for entertaining and another bar inside where Brown-Forman’s master bourbon specialist Jacquelyn Zykan can tinker with and concoct her own creations. Brown said the distillery will take visitors through the entire bourbon-making process — from stave to bottle — including a cooperage room where coopers will build barrels each day and you’ll have the opportunity to push a button that’ll char each barrel for several seconds.

There will also be a working rick house that can age 800-900 barrels in a climate-controlled, 36-foot-high room.

One feature he was most excited about, which he likened to Louisville’s version of The Peabody ducks, was that barrels will actually be rolling throughout the distillery on rails — much like the daily march of those famed ducks at the Memphis hotel.

It was hard not to catch Brown’s enthusiasm for the one-of-a-kind project, which is slated to open in late 2017.

And speaking of Old Forester and positive things, they’re once again offering discounts on taxis during Derby week by partnering with Taxi 7. From May 4-8, if you download the app and use the service (and enter the code OLDFORESTER), you’ll receive $10 off your ride. I think I’ll go do that right now. —Sara Havens

Guess expanding distribution center in Louisville

Guess logoGuess what? (Corny, we know.)

The international clothing brand Guess is adding 232,500 square feet to its existing 504,996-square-foot distribution center at 10610 Freeport Drive in Jefferson Riverport International business park. The company also plans to add 155 new parking spaces, according to documents filed with Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government.

IL reached out to Guess, but messages for comment on the expansion were not returned. It is unclear if the company plans to add jobs as part of the expansion and if so, how many.

Guess recently purchased the nearly 35-acre property it operates on for $28.7 million, according to county property records, even though it has operated locally for years.

Back in 1999, Business First reported that Guess planned to open a warehouse in Louisville and employ 300 people if the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved $21.2 million in state incentives. Guess estimated it would employ 750 people within 10 years, according to the story. —Caitlin Bowling

Regional Better Business Bureau names new president

Reanna Smith-Hamblin

Reanna Smith-Hamblin

The Better Business Bureau of Louisville, Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky has promoted Reanna Smith-Hamblin to president and CEO of the organization, effective Sept. 1.

Smith-Hamblin will replace retired president and CEO Charles Mattingly, who’s held the position for 20 years, according to a news release.

“The great thing about Charlie’s leadership over the years is that we were able to identify three capable and qualified candidates already in place at the BBB,” Greg Heitzman, chairman of the local BBB’s board, said in the release.

Smith-Hamblin has worked as vice president of communications for nearly 11 years after working as a news producer at WHAS 11 News in Louisville and as a reporter/anchor for WKAG-CA in Hopkinsville, Ky.

“I am extremely excited about my new role at the BBB, as well as being the organization’s first female to serve as the president/CEO at BBB Louisville,” Smith-Hamblin said. “I have had the advantage of working under Charlie’s leadership for the past 11 years and will use that knowledge in being able to build on his legacy.”

The local BBB has 4,034 accredited business members and an annual budget of more than $2 million. —Caitlin Bowling

Humana researchers recognized

Humana_logoTwo Humana employees have been recognized by the American College of Preventive Medicine for research related to medication adherence and mortality.

Tristan Cordier, manager on the Clinical Insights and Outcomes team in Humana’s Clinical Analytics department, won the Outstanding Oral Presentation award at the ACPM’s recent annual conference.

Sean Mendes, a senior actuarial analyst, won the group’s best poster presentation award for work that compared mortality rates between Medicare patients and Humana’s Medicare customers.

Humana said in a press release that Cordier presented research indicating that patients who consistently adhere to their medication reported fewer days on which they felt physically or mentally unhealthy.

Humana said the research shows that the number of healthy days patients report “may be an indicator of health behaviors, (such as) medication adherence.”

Mendes’ presentation indicated that Humana’s Medicare Advantage customers had a lower mortality rate than the Medicare population as a whole.

Using the mortality rate among 1.5 million Medicare patients as a baseline, Mendes used the data to predict the rate for Humana’s 5.5 million Medicare Advantage customers. He found that the rate among Humana customers, at 2.9 percent, was lower than the 3.7 percent of the traditional Medicare group.

“Overall we’re seeing a reduction in mortality of 20 percent,” Mendes said. “In areas where we usually see large disparities in member health, such as income level and race, we see an even greater reduction in mortality, which suggests that we’re closing some gaps in care.”

Mendes’ model was a response to a November 2014 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation that lamented that “despite great interest in comparisons between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage, studies comparing overall quality and access to care between Medicare Advantage plans and traditional Medicare tend to be based on relatively old data, and a limited set of measures. —Boris Ladwig

Ohio Valley Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year nominees

In June at the Ohio Valley Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year gala, Kentuckiana will be represented by the following entrepreneurs:

  • Paul Perkins — Amatrol Inc., Jeffersonville: Amatrol is short for Automated Machine Controls and is a company that creates training programs and products for STEM-related businesses and education.
  • Jason Mulvene — Blue Ocean Traders, Louisville: Mulvene and his crew travel all over the world searching for exotic and one-of-a-kind antiques. They house their products in a 100,000 square foot warehouse on S. 7th Street in Old Louisville.
  • Steve A. Huey — Capture Higher Ed LLC, Louisville: Capture Higher Ed is a recruitment and enrollment management system for institutions of higher education.
  • Stacy Griggs and David Thomas Stadler III — El Toro LLC, Louisville: El Toro is a real time IP capturing program that matches IP addresses to mailing addresses.
  • Ankur Gopal — Interapt, Louisville: Interapt creates high-tech solutions by way of apps for large scale businesses. They’re also Google Glass certified.
  • John Waggoner — HMS Global Maritime, New Albany: HMS is a full-service marine management company. They provide and manage ferries, steamboats, government programs and also do consulting.
  • Purna Veer — V-Soft Consulting Group Inc., Louisville: V-Soft provides both IT staffing and IT solutions to enterprise companies. They also have a Wisconsin office.

Regional finalists progress to nationals, which will be held in Palm Springs, Calif. in November. The international awards will be announced in Monaco in June 2017. —Melissa Chipman

Free admission for a year at KMAC thanks to Delta Dental of Kentucky

First, Speed Museum announced there’d be free admission on Sundays thanks to a generous donation from Brown-Forman, and now the soon-to-be-open Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC) is one-upping that good news by promising free admission all the time for a full year. The kind gesture was made by Delta Dental of Kentucky and its “Making Smiles Happen Charitable Initiative.”

The newly renovated museum will open its doors on Saturday, June 4, and show off its $3 million facelift and additional exhibition spaces.

“KMAC’s mission is to connect people to art and creative practice, and we are constantly experimenting with the most effective ways to make these connections,” said Aldy Milliken, executive director and chief curator, in a press release. “Free admission has been my priority for years, and we are thrilled to make this art opportunity a reality for all art lovers in the region.”

While the museum helps connect people with art, Delta Dental’s “Making Smiles Happen” campaign also helps improve a community’s well-being.

“The ‘Making Smiles Happen Charitable Initiative’ is always about creating access to opportunity whether it’s oral health or cultural and educational experiences,” said Clifford Maesaka, CEO of Delta Dental of Kentucky. “We are proud to support KMAC and its desire to lead the conversation about art and its role in society. You know a lot about the health of a community by its support of the arts. Programs that feed the body and mind are important, as basic needs and education are how we measure our success; but art and support of it is how we nurture and replenish our soul.”

Sounds like a win-win for everyone involved. —Sara Havens

GLIDE on down to Austin

Chicken Shit Bingo at Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon in Austin

Chicken Shit Bingo at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon in Austin

GLI has announced that this year’s GLIDE trip will take them to Austin, Tx., the original “weird” city. The three main realms that GLI will be focusing on during the trip are: talent acquisition, entrepreneurship and public policy. The organization last visited Austin in 2000. It was also the highest polled destination from a survey of last year’s GLIDE participants.

“It’s been 16 years since GLI visited Austin and in that time their population has grown by 57 percent,” GLI President & CEO Kent Oyler said in a news release. “That doesn’t just happen by accident. We will be using this trip as an opportunity to see what they’ve done to foster this growth, how they are dealing with the pains that come with a population boom, and the best practices that we can bring back to Greater Louisville.”

Austin is known for its vibrant music scene and for events like South by Southwest which focuses on creativity and innovation. 41.5 percent of the population of Austin holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to Louisville’s 26 percent.

Insider tagged along to the GLIDE trip to Houston in 2013, and they sure do cram a ton of stuff into a couple of days. And you’re networking with oodles of movers and shakers from the government, business and arts world. Do you get a good bang for your buck? It all depends if beefing up your network is worth $2700. More information is here. —Melissa Chipman