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Local News

$768 Thousand Spent On Shawnee Pavillion

Shawnee Park PavillionA $768,000 dollar renovation of the Shawnee Park Pavilion in west Louisville has been completed.

The more than 80 year old structure received new roof, walls and ceilings. $383,000 for the project came from Metro Parks. The remaining $385,000 needed for the renovations came from Brown-Forman and the Olmstead Parks Conservancy.

One person at Wednesday’s dedication ceremony, crime prevention teacher Donnie Morris, said he’d like to see some funds committed toShawnee Park Pavillion other initiatives in west Louisville.

“Our area is heavily saturated with crime and drugs and we’re talking about $768,000 for a building that in another 100 years is going to disintegrate,” he says.

Mimi Zinniel with the Olmstead Parks Conservancy says rebuilding parks helps improve neighborhoods, and the conservancy has projects planned around the city.

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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.

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Local News

Cordish Could Pull Out Of Center City

The future of the contentious Center City project in downtown Louisville is growing more uncertain. After the Metro Council postponed a vote Thursday to purchase land for the project, its developer, Cordish sent a letter to Mayor Abramson saying the inaction was unnecessary and other cities are waiting for projects similar to Center City.

The Council postponed the vote so a work group could negotiate a guaranteed minimum investment by Cordish. Abramson says Cordish has promised to make the investment, and additional contracts aren’t needed.

“We have tried to minimize risks,” he says. “We have tried to ensure that with the investment by Cordish on this deal they will bring to the table anywhere between 200 and 430 million dollars and create over 3,000 jobs both construction and permanent jobs and the council has turned their back on them.”

Abramson says the project isn’t dead, but it’s future lies with the council.

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Local News

Louisville, Jeffersontown Receive Bike Grants

Louisville and Jeffersontown have received grants to improve bicycle accessibility and safety.Beshear and Abramson

Combined, the two cities received about 4 million federal dollars and $850,000 in local matching funds. Some of the money will be spent on building and repairing bike and pedestrian lanes and trails. Mayor Jerry Abramson says the funds will also help pay for education programs.

“We’re going to put some money into cyclist and pedestrian safety and education,” says Abramson. “You’re going to see more and more of the brochures, television, TV advertising; training classes for folks who ride; making sure that us that drive cars also have an appreciation for the role to be played.”

Governor Steve Beshear presented the money to Abramson and Jeffersontown Mayor Clay Foreman Friday.

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Local News

New Arena Funding Plan Nearly Complete

The Louisville Arena Authority is expected to announce a new plan to finance the downtown arena this week.

Funding for the project collapsed last month when Moody’s Credit Rating Agency warned that Assured Guaranty, the bonds’ insurer, could have its credit rating downgraded. Assured’s rating is still intact, and the authority’s new plan apparently calls for the agency to insure the sale of $329 million in fixed rate bonds.

Moody’s has given the bonds their lowest investor-grade rating, but two more agencies have yet to issue ratings on the bonds. Mayor Jerry Abramson says he doesn’t expect the low rating to be a problem.

“Assuming there’s not a complete change again on Wall Street as has occurred twice before, we feel pretty confident, pretty darn confident actually; very optimistic that there’ll be a chance for this to go forward, that we’ll be able to nail it down and that it’ll be in the context – in the framework – of the dollars we said it was always going to cost,” says Abramson.

The final deal could be in place for the Arena Authority’s meeting Thursday.

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Local News

KY Officials Issue Subpoenas In Gas Probe

A group of elected officials investigating Louisville’s high gas prices are intensifying their focus on wholesalers.

Attorney General Jack Conway, Governor Steve Beshear, Congressman John Yarmuth and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson launched their investigation six weeks ago. So far, they’ve ruled out Louisville’s use of reformulated gas and retailer collusion as possible causes of the higher prices. They say retailers across the state earn the roughly the same amount from gas, and other cities using RFG have lower prices than Louisville.

Conway announced Friday that he has issued subpoenas to Kentucky fuel wholesalers. He’s also asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the 1997 merger of Marathon and Ashland Oil.

Yarmuth blames the merger for creating a monopoly and driving prices up.

“With one company providing 90% of the fuel for our community, up to 90% of the fuel, and a lack of regulation from Washington, this was predictable,” he said.

The group expects to have more information in 45 days, at which point they may pursue legal action against Kentucky fuel wholesalers.

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Local News

Abramson To Woo Professionals In Tampa

Louisville’s aggressive campaign to lure young professionals to the city moves to Tampa, Florida Thursday.

Since 2003, Mayor Jerry Abramson has thrown parties for young professionals in large cities. They’ve invited four thousand guests with ties to Kentucky to this year’s reunion in Tampa, and between five and six hundred have agreed to attend.

There’s no record of how many guests at previous parties have moved to the area, but Mayor’s spokesperson Chris Poynter says local companies use the event to find potential employees.

“Yum! Brands for example is going down with us,” says Poynter. “We have recruiters there that are working with Humana and SHPS and some of our major employers and they go down there and recruit.”

The trip will cost about $20 thousand. Poynter says most of that will be paid for by the mayor’s travel companions. This year, Tampa received its second consecutive ranking as the worst large city for young professionals from Forbes Magazine. Louisville is not large enough to have been ranked.