Monday Business Briefing: Group to redevelop Harrods Creek property; Highlands Bar to relocate; CUB features teller ‘pods’; and more

Welcome to the June 19 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Investor group plans to redevelop property near Captain’s Quarters

Harrods Creed 2014 Investment Partners owns the highlighted lot as well as the five to the left of it. | Courtesy of Jefferson County PVA

Roughly 4.4 acres along River Road is slated for redevelopment.

The six sites currently house a couple of single-family homes, a post office, the restaurant Cast Iron Steakhouse, an office building and Happy Hounds Doggie Daycare. The properties — located at 6327-6331 and 6337 River Road, 1 Creekside Court and 15 Creekside Court — don’t front the Ohio River but rather sit along the tributary Harrods Creek just down from Captain’s Quarters.

The redevelopment came to Insider’s attention after Cast Iron Steakhouse posted on Facebook Thursday that it was closing effective immediately.

“A new developer has purchased many surrounding properties, including our location. They have decided not to renew our lease,” the post reads. Cast Iron Steakhouse also noted that all gift certificates would be honored at its Jeffersonville, Ind., restaurant, at 1207 E. Market St.

According to property records, the five parcels were purchased by a group called Harrods Creek 2014 Investment Partners in 2014 and 2015. They have not changed hands recently.

On the Kentucky Secretary of State website, Harrods Creek 2014 Investment Partners listed its headquarters as the offices of Zelkova Strategic Partners, a financial firm that works with “exceptionally wealthy” families.

Dale Boden is listed as a registered agent for the group on the land purchase documents.

“Myself and some investors have been buying properties down there for several years now. At some point in time, we will have a redevelopment plan come together,” Boden told Insider. “We are not there yet.”

Boden, who is an investor in Insider Louisville, said the planning was still at the beginning stages, and there was no timeline for when a master plan would be ready.

“We think it’s a great spot and could use a little love and attention,” he said.

When asked generally about what could end up being built on the land, he said the plans don’t currently include any residential development.

The master plan will be something “that we think is fitting with the neighborhood and area, and we think once we are at that point, it will be very well received,” Boden said.

He also stated that he was not aware of Cast Iron Steakhouse’s closure until Insider called and that the restaurant had been operating on a month-to-month lease. —Caitlin Bowling

Louisville Marriott Downtown begins $30 million renovation

Following a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday, work started on the $30 million renovation of the Louisville Marriott Downtown, 280 W. Jefferson St.

This is the second renovation of the hotel since it opened in 2005, and the Louisville Marriott is one of multiple hotels that have invested in renovations in the last few years as they look to compete with the $321 million Omni Louisville coming online in 2018 and ahead of the reopening of the Kentucky International Convention Center.

“This renovation is part of the evolution of Louisville,” David Greene, general manager of the Louisville Marriott Downtown, said in a news release. “We believe this is a growing market with opportunities to attract high-rated convention business and leisure travelers. With the convention center under construction, we believe now is the right time to renovate the Marriott.”

The renovations will take place while the hotel remains in operation and are set to be complete in August 2018, just a month or two after the renovated convention center opens, the release notes.

The new design closely ties to the heritage of Louisville, according to the release. For example, the hotel’s restaurant Champions Sports Bar & Grille is closing and will be replaced by The Porch, a concept that will feature native Kentucky ingredients on the menu.

Phase 1 of the project includes the restaurant switch and lobby upgrades. Those will be followed by the transformation of Blu Italian Grille into M Lounge and the renovation of its 50,000-square-feet of meeting space and guest rooms. —Caitlin Bowling

Louisville Metro Council approves funding change for Waterfront Park

Waterfront Development Corp. is considering charging for parking during events. | Courtesy of Waterfront Park

Members of Louisville Metro Council voted Thursday night to plug a funding hole for Waterfront Development Corp., the entity that oversees operations at Waterfront Park.

Mayor Greg Fischer asked the council to consider an ordinance that would move $210,000 from the fiscal year 2017 capital budget for Waterfront Park Phase IV to WDC’s operating budget. The money will cover a gap created by the loss of state funding and also keep the WDC from instituting daily parking fees to cover the shortfall.

“The mayor’s office has asked us to put that on hold because the mayor does not feel like people should have to pay to park down there. From a staff perspective, we are in a netherworld trying to figure out how we make up the shortfalls,” David Karem, WDC’s president, told metro council members earlier this month.

Rather than charging for parking every day at Waterfront Park lots, the entity instead will look into charging for parking during events only. Karem and other WDC leaders will meet with local parking lot operators to discuss the feasibility of implementing and enforcing paid parking during events.

Karem said the WDC would continue to lobby the state to restore its annual funding as well. —Caitlin Bowling

Highlands’ The Planet Bar to relocate to Tom Drexler building near Douglass Loop

The Planet will relocate to 2232 Bardstown Road. | Courtesy of The Planet Bar

The Planet, a small, venerable Highlands bar on the corner of Bardstown Road and Alta Avenue, is about to get a much bigger home. This fall, it’s moving down the street to 2232 Bardstown Road, located in the Tom Drexler Plumbing building that formerly housed the Bourbon & Belles drive-thru liquor store.

Planet Bar owner Cathy Wright, who took over the bar’s operations earlier this year, confirmed she’s relocating the business the last week of September and hopes to be open by Oct. 4. It’ll continue to be open until then at 1565 Bardstown Road.

Wright tells Insider she decided to move for space reasons — the bar is going from 1,100 square feet to 4,000. She also plans to add a full stage for live music, three bars, a VIP lounge and dance floor.

The Planet Experience — now just called The Planet Bar — opened in early 2015 as a lesbian bar, although it was welcoming to everyone. The name was a nod to the popular bar featured in the Showtime series “The L Word.” Wright says it’ll continue to be an all-inclusive place, “where everyone is always welcome,” she adds.

There will also be standard pub grub served at the new space, including bar staples like grilled cheese, pizza, hot dogs and quesadillas. Wright already has booked a few notable events for the new space, including grand opening party on Oct. 4 and a Jam Fest on Oct. 14. —Sara Havens

Yum plunges on Fortune 500 list; Yum China new entrant

Screenshot from the Fortune website.

Yum Brands fell more than 200 spots on the Fortune 500 — because of its China Holdings spinoff.

Yum, based in Louisville, ranks 422nd on the new list, down from 218th last year. Yum China Holdings, based in Plano, Texas, made the list for the first time and actually ranks ahead of its sister company, at 399th.

Other Louisville-based companies moved little on the list, which ranks U.S.-based companies by revenue.

Humana ranked 53rd, down one spot, while Kindred Healthcare, at 372nd, was down four. Two of Louisville’s largest employers, Ford and UPS, ranked 10th and 46th.

Local distiller Brown-Forman ranked 713th, down 11 spots.

Walmart ranked first, with revenue of $486 billion, followed by Berkshire Hathaway ($224 billion) and Apple ($216 billion.)

Fortune said that the top 500 companies’ combined revenue of $12 trillion accounted for two-thirds of the nation’s gross domestic product. —Boris Ladwig

Citizens Union’s new bank branch to feature teller ‘pods’

Courtesy of Citizens Union Bank

Citizens Union Bank is opening a branch in Middletown today that will feature teller “pods” rather than the traditional teller lines.

David Bowling

CEO David Bowling told Insider that the pods, free-standing kiosks, allow for “high-tech and high-touch” interactions in a more relaxed setting.

The branch, at the corner of Shelbyville Road and the Gene Snyder Freeway, replaces the one across Shelbyville Road, which will close the same day.

“’We think the new branch is a lot more visible and easier to access,” Bowling said.

The institution added about seven branches between 2003 and 2008, but the recession dampened that growth spurt. Since then, Bowling said, the bank has focused on gaining customers in its existing locations, especially targeting small-business lending.

In 2016, the institution sold a branch in LaRue County and consolidated its Radcliff location with the one in nearby Elizabethtown. It now operates 16 branches.

Bowling said the bank has invested heavily in the last few years to expand its small-business capabilities. For example, he said, the bank has hired lenders with a lot of small-business experience. Bowling said Citizens Union can offer lenders the same kinds of services as larger banks, but its size also allows for more customized responses and faster reaction to customer demands.

The efforts have paid off, he said, in that the bank’s loan growth, of about 12 percent last year, outperformed its peer group by about 3 percentage points.

The new branch, at 3,000 square feet, is roughly the same size as the old one. The facility employs six and was designed by Jeffersonville-based ARC. The bank is leasing an additional 2,500 square feet to Verizon.

And while the bank does not have any definitive plans to add a fourth branch in the Louisville area, it continues to keep its eye open for potential expansions, Bowling said.

Citizens Union was established in 1888 and has assets of $720 million. —Boris Ladwig

Good news from Comfy Cow

Insider reached out to Comfy Cow co-owner Tim Koons-McGee to find out how things were going with the beloved scoop shop and ice cream supplier.

At the end of May, Koons-McGee apologized online to loyal customers. The company had suffered setbacks that made supplies dwindle so much that some of the scoop shops were down to just a handful of flavors. The UofL store was abruptly shuttered.

Is it any better? “Yes, indeed. Finally getting back to normal,” Koons-McGee said via email.

And for those of you who are taking summer classes at UofL take note: Koons-McGee said the store at Cardinal Towne should reopen sometime next weekend. Melissa Chipman

Whole Foods spikes on proposed Amazon deal, competitors plunge

Shares of Whole Foods rose 29 percent Friday after Amazon said it plans to buy the grocery chain for $13.7 billion.

Whole Foods shares rose $9.62, closing at $42.68. Amazon’s shares rose 2.4 percent, closing at $987.81.

Shares of rivals Kroger and Walmart fell 9.24 percent and 4.65 percent. Broader markets changed little.

According to Yahoo Finance, the Amazon/Whole Foods announcement lowered their competitors’ market capitalization by $28.5 billion on Friday. —Boris Ladwig

Churchill Downs shares spike on repurchase

The first full trading day after Churchill Downs announced a privately negotiated repurchase of 1 million shares from its largest shareholder, the Louisville company’s shares spiked nearly 4 percent.

Churchill Downs said June 9 that it used available cash and borrowings to repurchase 1 million shares of common stock, at a price of $158.8 million, from an affiliate of The Duchossois Group. TDG still owns more than one million shares after the transaction.

On June 12, the first full trading day after the announcement, Churchill Downs’ shares rose 3.8 percent, to $179.75. The S.&P. 500 fell slightly that day.

Churchill Downs said it had authorized the transaction under the $250 million share repurchase plan it announced on April 25. Share repurchases reduce the number of a company’s outstanding shares, which means they increase earnings per share. —Boris Ladwig