The Closing Bell: $52M NuLu project gets greenlight; UofL pays $1.15M for Dunn to leave; road closures ahead; 21c showcases city pride; 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.
Committee approves demolition of historically significant building for NuLu project
The NuLu Review Overlay Committee Wednesday approved plans for a $52 million apartment development at 700 E. Main St., as well as the demolition of a 136-year-old building.
According to a report compiled by Louisville Metro Planning & Design Services staff, the three-story brick building at the corner of Main and Clay Streets “retains significant value as an increasingly rare example of a turn-of-the-century corner commercial structure in good condition that contributes to the value and character of the district and can be reasonably renovated.”
However, the report also notes that it would cost Georgia-based developer Flournoy Cos. at least another $2.2 million to incorporate the building into its proposed 248-unit apartment project, which will take up half a city block. The developer does plan to retain the facade at 121 S. Clay St. and has doubled the amount of retail space in the development.
“The project dies” if the demolition isn’t approved, said Jeffrey McKenzie, the lawyer representing Flournoy Cos. He added that the floor heights in the three-story building don’t match up with the proposed floor heights of the five-story apartment building and that his client believes that the building is structurally unsound.
A few members of the overlay committee, which is responsible for ensuring that proposed projects in NuLu conform with the neighborhood, were unhappy that Flournoy Cos. did not plan to incorporate the building at 700 E. Main St. into its development, but they ultimately voted 5-to-1 to approve the demolition and the project.
“A lot of the value in this neighborhood is the old historic buildings,” said committee member Bill Marzian, who cast the dissenting vote.
The committee approved the plans on the condition that the project incorporate some form of public art, that the final streetscape designs be approved by planning and design staff, and that all retail storefronts abut the sidewalk. The project will now go before the Board of Zoning Adjustment for final approvals. —Caitlin Bowling
UofL pays Dr. David Dunn $1.15 million to leave
University of Louisville executive Dr. David L. Dunn, whom the FBI investigated for alleged misuse of funds, will receive $1.15 million from the institution to relinquish his tenured position.
Dunn, the executive vice president for health affairs, left the university on Monday, the university said in a statement it emailed to IL.
The university revealed the agreement with Dunn on Tuesday, the same day on which it announced it was severing a joint operating agreement with KentuckyOne Health, a deal that Dunn helped design, according to Dr. Peter Hasselbacher, emeritus professor of medicine at UofL and president of the Kentucky Health Policy Institute.
For example, Dunn was one of the signatories to the parties’ academic affiliation agreement.
Dunn left UofL as a “tenured, full professor in good standing,” the university said in a statement first obtained by Hasselbacher on Tuesday.
The FBI was investigating Dunn, former Chief Information Officer Priscilla Hancock and former Associate VP Dr. Russell Bessette on suspicion that they misused federal grant money for purposes unrelated to the school. Bessette left the university in 2015, Hancock retired in October.
While university officials have acknowledged the investigation, the FBI told IL Thursday that it would neither confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation.
Despite the FBI probe and an expired contract, Dunn had continued to receive compensation from the university, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting reported this summer.
A native of Pontiac, Mich., Dunn, who holds a doctor of medicine from the University of Michigan and a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Minnesota, had joined UofL in 2011 after serving as vice president for health sciences at the University of Buffalo. His 54-page CV, which includes a 42-page bibliography of published works and lectures is still available on the UofL website. His wife, Dr. Kelli M. Bullard Dunn, a colon and rectal surgeon, remains a university employee, U0fL told IL. —Boris Ladwig
Eastern Parkway and Baxter Avenue/Bardstown Road area about to get drilled
The Louisville Water Company has announced some significant road closures for anyone living/working/eating/shopping in the Highlands over the next few weeks. Louisville Water will repair 6.6 miles of the Eastern Parkway water main in a three-year, multiphase project. This is the largest water main repair the company has undertaken in its 156-year history.
The intersection of Eastern Parkway and Baxter Avenue will be closed starting Friday, Dec.16 at 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, Dec. 19. Detours will be set up for traffic between Barrett Avenue and Bardstown Road.
Ugh. Construction, right?
But that’s barely even a hassle when you realize that Eastern Parkway will be closed from Baxter Avenue to Bardstown Road from Monday Dec. 19 to Friday Dec. 30.
Workers have to close all four lanes of the road because in that area the pipes turn and wind more than usual. Just think, though: we’ll start off 2017 with a shiny new water main. Already 2017 is looking up. –Melissa Chipman
Large apartment complex planned near Jefferson Mall
The demand for multifamily housing in Louisville has risen ever since the real estate market crashed in 2008, resulting in a rash of new apartment developments being built around Jefferson County, and it seems that the growth in multifamily developments won’t be slowing down.
In addition to the many projects under construction currently, plans for a large apartment complex near Jefferson Mall were filed this week with Louisville Metro Planning & Design Services. The proposed development is called Jefferson Green and will sit on 52.67 acres.
Louisville developer LDG Development submitted plans for a 13-building, 552-unit complex at 1253 McCawley Road. The plans also call for two man-made lakes, two clubhouses, two pools, detached garages and gated entrances.
LDG Development has more than 25 apartment properties in the United States, including six in Louisville; they are a mix of market-rate, mixed-income and affordable apartment units. The company also is currently developing an apartment complex on Avoca Road in Louisville. —Caitlin Bowling
New store opening in the Paddock Shops this spring
The Paddock Shops is getting a new shop that will cater to people who love comfort.
St. Louis-based Soft Surroundings sells clothing, footwear, bedding, beauty products and accessories. All the fabrics sold by Soft Surroundings are rated as “so soft,” “heavenly soft” and “ultimate softness.”
The more than 4,000-square-foot store will open at the Paddock Shops in spring 2017, according to the company’s website. It will employ 15 to 20 people.
Westport Village finds tenant for vacant Gattiland building
Speaking of new retail shops, a new furniture store is expected to fill the big hole that Gattiland left in Westport Village.
The restaurant and play zone Gattiland closed its 26,000-square-foot location at the Herr Lane shopping center two years ago, and Westport Village’s leasing office hadn’t found anything to take over the behemoth space until now.
Knoxville-based furniture company Bliss Home plans to build out the space for its first Kentucky store, according to a news release.
“We absolutely fell in love with Louisville during one of our many visits here,” owners Scott Schimmel and Lisa Sorensen said in the release. “Like our philosophy, Westport Village has a strong focus on a small store feel and a sense of community.”
While furniture is the store’s main focus, it also sells accessories, gift items, jewelry and kitchen wares.
Two companies with Louisville ties are now compatible with Amazon’s Alexa
For those who’ve managed not to see an Amazon ad, Alexa is not a person, but a computer program similar to Apple’s Siri.
Alexa is the voice for the Amazon products including Amazon Fire, Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. Alexa can be programmed to perform tasks such as turning lights on and off.
Two companies recently announced that they have introduced applications compatible with the Alexa system, which will allow users to order pizza or put themselves on a restaurant’s wait list with a few simply commands.
Louisville-based technology company QSR Automations this week introduced a new version of its DineTime application. Users can ask Alexa what restaurants are in the area, ask what the wait time is at a specific restaurant and put their name on the restaurant’s waiting list.
“Dining decisions are quick and easy for on-the-go Alexa users now. Diners have the added benefit of using voice commands from the comfort of their couch, kitchen or bedroom,” Lee Leet, founder and CEO of QSR Automations, said in a statement.
The new application does have its limits as it only works at restaurants that use DineTime to manage its operations, including wait lists and employee schedules. The video above shows how the application works.
Another company with Louisville ties, Pizza Hut, also introduced its own Alexa application that lets people place an order for delivery or pickup using commands such as “Alexa, ask Pizza Hut for a pizza.”
Users can order using Alexa from a menu that includes pepperoni, supreme, veggie lover’s, meat lover’s and cheese pizzas, as well as soft drinks, bread sticks and cinnamon sticks, according to a news release.
21c showcases civic pride with the Louisville City Guide
This really awesome video about Louisville has been popping up all over social media this week. But just in case you haven’t seen it, check it out.
It’s from the Louisville City Guide page on the 21c Museum Hotels website. The video appears to be a little old (how we miss you, WHYLouisville, especially this time of year!) and the city guide is a little out of date (El Camino, please come back soon; no one makes good daiquiris like you did). But the video will make you proud to call the city home.
“We all say we weren’t born in Louisville, but we got here as fast as we could,” says one of the several bearded gents in the video.
When asked how to describe Louisville, the responses were fantastic, including: “the northernmost southern city,” “about as Yankee as the south gets,” and my favorite, “high southern,” a term the woman said she made up on the spot. —Melissa Chipman
Broussard on witness stand; says Aetna, Humana want to improve health care
Humana CEO Bruce Broussard this week testified in court that he and Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini “almost finished each other’s sentences” when they first met to talk about a potential merger.
Broussard also said that the companies shared a passion for making a difference in the health care industry, according to Reuters.
Humana’s CEO on Tuesday became the first defense witness in the antitrust trial that will determine whether Aetna, based in Hartford, Conn., will be allowed to acquire Louisville-based Humana for $37 billion.
The companies say that together they can offer better health care at a lower cost to more people. However, the U.S. Department of Justice is trying to block the merger because it believes the deal would lower competition and increase prices for consumers, especially older Americans.
The DOJ rested its case on Tuesday.
This week, Aetna executives defended the company’s decision to withdraw from health exchanges in the 17 counties in which the DOJ asserted competition would be reduced. Aetna leaders said they withdrew for fiscal reasons, not, as the government claims, to avoid antitrust scrutiny. The exchanges are a central part of the Affordable Care Act, also known informally as Obamacare. Aetna has said it projects to lose $350 million on the exchange business this year.
Jonathan Mayhew, who leads Aetna’s ACA business, testified that the company withdrew from 17 counties mentioned in the lawsuit because the exchange business continued to deteriorate, according to The Wall Street Journal.
However, Mayhew also “acknowledged on the witness stand that he had been told to keep strategy discussions about the 17 counties verbal so there wouldn’t be written communication that could be shared with the Justice Department during discovery for the litigation,” The Journal reported. —Boris Ladwig
Correction: Due to a typographical error, the original headline accompanying this post incorrectly stated the amount UofL paid to David Dunn upon his departure.