Local News Next Louisville Politics

Cordish Granted Extension On Incentives Claim

The Baltimore-based Cordish Companies has been given an extension in its planned expansion of 4th Street Live in downtown Louisville.

Cordish has until the end of 2012 to begin its 30-year period of collecting tax incentives on the Center City development. Those tax incentives, however, mainly apply to sales tax collected in the restaurants and retail establishments in the finished development. Because Cordish will not likely finish the project by the end of 2012, the company may lose several years of potential incentives.

Because of that, Louisville Economic Development Director Bruce Traughber says he doesn’t think the extension will significantly delay the project’s completion.

“There isn’t a deadline for completion,” he says. “They’ll complete it as quickly as they can because if they don’t earn tax dollars they can’t be repaid tax dollars.”

The project is on hold until bond markets improve, and Traughber says he’s convinced Cordish is dedicated to the project.

“The Cordish Company are proven developers in more cities in this country than any other development entity,” he says. “They’re a proven commodity that knows how to do this kind of inner-city retail and that’s what they’re committed to do and we full anticipate they will be able to do that when financial conditions allow it.”

The extension was approved by state government. The state has also lowered the minimum investment Cordish must make in Center City from $200 million to $150 million.

Local News Next Louisville

Heiner Says Mayoral Power Should Be Limited

Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner says he’s disappointed with Attorney General Jack Conway’s opinion on the mayor’s economic development powers.

Conway released a decision Tuesday saying the law allows the mayor to negotiate and sign development contracts without council approval. It comes after Heiner and two others asked Conway about the legality of Mayor Abramson’s decision to re-allocate unused portions of a bond for a new project in 4th Street Live.

While this power is given to the mayor, Conway says the council can take it away. Heiner says several of his colleagues will soon begin taking such steps.

“Our goal at this point is to make sure in the future that this type of spending—without oversight, without transparency, without a check and balance, without any discussion in the public—that before we spend sums of taxpayers’ money that this community is involved,” he says.

The council is currently considering an ordinance that would increase the transparency of city-funded projects.

Local News

Groups Seek Historical Status For Buildings In Center City Zone

Water Company Block BuildingsLouisville area preservationists want four buildings on the proposed Center City site to be declared historical landmarks.

The old Water Company headquarters, Falls City Theater, Odd Fellows Hall and Bosler’s Garage date as far back as the 1880s. The city plans to purchase the buildings and the rest of the block this month. It will then be leased to the Cordish Company who will build the Center City entertainment district on the land.

Steve Porter is the spokesperson for the OPEN Inc. preservation group. He says Cordish has built around historic buildings in the past.

“Their track record on doing things in historic buildings is good,” he says. “We just want to remind everyone that we have that same possibility here, where those four buildings could be reused.”

Porter says he’s not against Center City, but wants the buildings preserved. OPEN Inc is gathering petitions to submit to the Landmark Commission. If the commission gives the buildings landmark status, Cordish will have to apply to modify or raze them.

Local News

Center City Plans Continue

Now that the Louisville Metro Council has released $12.2 million for the purchase of the so-called Water Company block, the city is moving ahead on plans for Center City.

“The next big step is obviously closing on the land,” says Mayor’s spokesperson Chris Poynter. “Now that the council has approved the purchase of the water company block land we have until December 1st to close on that land and we’re prepared to do that.”

The block will be purchased and then leased to the Cordish Company, which will extend its 4th Street Live entertainment district eastward onto the property.

Poynter says a timetable for construction hasn’t been set. In the meantime, the city will take over the block’s parking lots, which will eventually be destroyed to make way Center City.

“There are numerous people who park there and have monthly contracts and we’ll be taking that over and getting the revenue from those lots,” says Poynter.

Once the land is purchased, the city will begin architectural planning with the project’s developer, the Cordish Company. Around that same time, infrastructure improvements are set to begin.

Local News

Council Approves Center City Land Purchase

Councilman David TandyAfter two postponements and months of negotiations, the Louisville Metro Council has approved the purchase of land for the Center City project.

Twelve million dollars will be spent for the so-called Water Company block east of 4th Street Live downtown. The block will be leased to the Baltimore-based developer Cordish Company.

All eleven council Republicans opposed the measure, saying the development agreement asked too much of the city and not enough of Cordish.

“The Mayor negotiated the agreement, signed it before the Council even had the first look at it,” says Councilman Hal Heiner, who led the opposition. “And it’s very difficult to change once it’s been signed.”Councilman Hal Heiner

Democrat David Tandy represents downtown in the council. He says the project will bring much needed retail business to the area.

“We’re dealing with a piece of property that has laid dormant for a number of years,” he says. “Now we’re being able to take that property and begin use it in such a way that will add resources and add revenue to our community,” he says.

Cordish had agreed to several initial concessions requested by the council, but said Thursday it would not negotiate the development deal any further.

Local News

Council Urged To Approve 'Center City' Land Purchase

Some Louisville business and civic leaders are urging the Metro Council to approve the final land purchase for the proposed Center City project downtown.

A resolution to buy the so-called Water Block and lease it to the Cordish Company to extend the Fourth Street Live complex has been held up in the council amid concerns about the city’s development agreement with Cordish.

Some council members want minimum investment and other guarantees from the developer.

At a press conference and rally Wednesday in support of Center City, Downtown Development Corporation Chairman Jim Welch said in addition to development along the Water Block, some old space would be revitalized.

“Like retail and the Starks Building, and events at the Louisville Gardens. Those spaces were once prominent venues in their own right and they need to be brought back to life,” Welch said.

The Louisville Metro Council is scheduled to vote on the land purchase at its next meeting Thursday evening.

Local News

Council Vote On 'Center City' Scheduled This Week

After two postponments, the Louisville Metro Council is scheduled to vote this week on a resolution to purchase the final piece of property for the proposed Center City project downtown.

But first the council wants some changes made to the development agreement between the mayor’s office and Cordish Company, which wants to expand its Fourth Street Live complex on the land.

Some members want more guarantees from Cordish before they will approve the land deal, including a guaranteed minimum $200 million investment in Center City.

Mayor Jerry Abramson said last week he’s hopeful an agreement can be reached before a looming deadline to close on the property.

“We’ve been talking with the council members, we’ve been talking to an awful lot of business people and other developers and they’ve been very positive about this happening and they’ve been very supportive,” Abramson said.

Cordish has said it might abandon the project if the council doesn’t follow through on the land deal.

Local News

Center City Vote Faces Further Delays

A Louisville Metro Council vote to purchase land for the Center City project will likely be postponed again.

The Council first postponed the vote two weeks ago so a work group could come up with revisions to the city’s development deal with the Baltimore-based Cordish Company. Under the current deal, the city will buy the so-called water company block downtown and lease it to the developer, who will then turn it into an entertainment district. The council aims to update the agreement to include a minimum investment from Cordish and a way for the city to reclaim unused land.

Council President Jim King says the council will give the mayor a list of the requests to take to Cordish, and discussions will likely begin next week. Cordish has threatened to back out of the deal if the land isn’t acquired soon, but King says the council has until December to authorize the purchase.

“I think they’re probably tough negotiators, they’re going to try to strike the best deal they can for themselves,” he says. “We’ve got to strike the best deal for the taxpayers.”

King says a new agreement should be ready for the next council meeting on November 6th. At that point, he expects the council to vote on the land purchase.

Local News

Center City Wait Continues

Louiville Mayor Jerry Abramson says he’s not sure what the future holds for the proposed Center City entertainment district.

Last week the Metro Council postponed purchasing land for the project. Some council members wanted more guarantees on financial investment and job creation from the project’s Baltimore-based developer, Cordish. The council is currently working on a list of the guarantees they would like Cordish to make.

After the postponement, Cordish sent a letter to Abramson threatening to back out of the deal if the land isn’t purchased soon. Abramson says the city has until December to make the purchase, and he will wait for the council to agree on what they want from the developer.

“Once there is a consensus and the council brings a consensus that these are the things that ultimately bring the votes to the table then I think it’s worth taking it to Cordish and seeing if they really meant what they said in their letter,” says Abramson.

Councilwoman Cheri Bryant-Hamilton says the council isn’t deterred by the threat.

“It takes 14 votes,” she says. “And we’ll just have to re-look at what they say or how far they’re willing to meet us in the middle on some of these issues and see if we have the votes.”

Cordish has made concessions on job creation, but the council would like a guaranteed minimum investment of at least $200 million put in writing. The council’s budget committee will discuss the deal next week. A vote on the purchase is expected at the full council’s October 23rd meeting.

Blog Archive

What’s Happening With Center City?

Even if you heard our story on the controversy and our follow-ups (1, 2 and 3), you may still be wondering what’s happening with Center City.

The project’s developer, Baltimore-based Cordish, has made some concessions on how many jobs they will create, where some of those workers will come from and how much they will build, but they still haven’t signed anything holding them to their promise to invest between $200 and $450 million in the entertainment district.

Mayor Jerry Abramson says Cordish will undoubtedly spend at least $200 million. That’s the minimum investment the developer needs to make to receive tax increment financing (TIF) for the project. Without the TIF, the project would be much harder to pay for.

But it is true that Cordish could make their current contractual minimum investment – $24 million/200,000 square feet – and not go for the TIF. That’s not what Cordish says they will do, but it’s all they’re required to do. It’s what many Metro Council members are worried about. It’s why the vote was postponed until next week and it’s why there’s a workgroup looking at the deal now.

Cordish says other cities are waiting for similar projects, and if the council won’t approve the land purchase, that’s it for Center City. I talked to Council President Jim King and he said legal action is possible only if Cordish backs out once the city has purchased the land.

There’s also concern among council members about the economy. The minority caucus has referenced the indefinitely-stalled Museum Plaza as a reason to avoid leasing land for development in a shaky market. If the new downtown arena creates a development rush downtown, they don’t want a block of real estate leased to a company that isn’t doing anything with it.

The administration counters the caucus’ claim, saying this is the way other cities operate, and Center City is an essential part of a vibrant downtown.

So, essentially the Mayor is tired of waiting, the minority caucus is tired of subsidizing and Cordish says they’re almost tired of Louisville. In between, council members from both parties want Cordish to put their verbal promise of hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in writing.

The workgroup met Tuesday and was scheduled to give a report to the budget committee Wednesday, but the budget meeting has been cancelled.