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Local News

U of L Wants MFA Program Downtown, But Cost Is A Concern

Cost and value are two major factors in the University of Louisville’s decision over whether to buy city-owned land downtown.

The land was to be taken up by the Museum Plaza skyscraper, which was canceled in August. U of L planned to move graduate programs for business and fine arts to the tower.

The business school is expanding, but the university has not found a home for the MFA program, which has not yet been created and can’t be until the school has enough space.

Provost Shirley Willihnganz says it could be costly to move downtown, but the payoff could be an MFA program that’s involved in the city’s museum and art scene.

“There are a lot of people who have been contacting us and I think there’s a lot of interest in having this program,” she says. “We have always thought that it would be a good idea to have that downtown. One of our goals for that program would be to have it in a place where the community could be a part of it.”

If U of L makes the purchase, the school would have to put a new building on the site. Currently, only empty facades of past buildings remain.

“Those facades would stay,” says Willihnganz. “So, if we were to get to a point where it would look like we were building something, it would probably go in beside those facades and those facades would stay fronting the street.”

The school has six months to decide if it will buy the land.

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Local News Uncategorized

Former Museum Plaza Site Begins Restoration

Restoration on the former Museum Plaza project site begins this week.

Louisville Metro Public Works has coordinated with project developers on a plan that will reopen 7th Street at River Road. Over the next six weeks crews will be cleaning the area and clearing the two former construction sites. This includes the Science Center Parking lot, which was used as a staging area, but will return to service.

The Museum Plaza project was cancelled in August because developers could not find enough private investments. The project was put on hold in 2008 and then canceled this year.

Metro officials say there is no cost to the city for restoration.

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Here and Now

Today on Here and Now

The Senate has passed the bill to raise the debt limit that the House approved yesterday. President Obama will comment soon, and is expected to sign it before sundown. The bipartisan legislation promises more than $2 trillion of budget cuts over the next decade. How does this deal affect you?

Museum Plaza isn’t going to happen. So what’s next? We’ll have an in-depth report.

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that home births increased by 20 percent between 2004 and 2008. Some women are making the choice of home birth because they want more control – but others are moved by the growing costs of hospital birth. We’ll talk about it.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Museum Plaza Failure Highlights Council’s Taxpayer Protections

Early Monday morning, the developers behind the Museum Plaza project in downtown Louisville called it quits. Craig Greenberg, Steve Wilson, Laura Lee Brown and Steve Poe sent a letter to Governor Steve Beshear and Mayor Greg Fischer saying they couldn’t build the tower. Several years, millions of dollars and hundreds of headlines had been dedicated to the project.

The Museum Plaza groundbreaking in 2007 was a big deal. Then-Mayor Jerry Abramson and other civic and business leaders were on hand to watch a giant shovel drop onto the ground at 6th and Main streets. The 62-story tower was supposed to bring in jobs and businesses and send a message that Louisville was a city on the rise.

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“By combining the arts, commerce and residential purpose in this one, spectacular venue, Museum Plaza, and by extension Louisville will become a model for other cities across the country,” said Senator Mitch McConnell in a video played at the ceremony.

But others were skeptical the building could be paid for.

“I didn’t think it was ever going to get started,” says Metro Councilman Kelly Downard, who wasn’t surprised to hear that the $450 million tower couldn’t be financed.

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Local News

Dean Says U of L MFA Program Will Find New Home

The University of Louisville is looking for a new home for its Master of Fine Arts program.

The College of Arts and Sciences had planned to lease a portion of the Museum Plaza skyscraper for the program, but the project has since been scrapped.

The school had refrained from seeking official approval for the MFA program until it had a home. Now, Dean Blaine Hudson says the program will likely be established this year, and classroom space will be found later. He doesn’t expect it to be a challenge.

“The amount of money that it would have cost us to have space in Museum Plaza could, if we could still raise that amount of money, buy us a very, very imposing facility of some kind anyway,” says Hudson.

U of L’s space in Museum Plaza would’ve cost $10-15 million.

The developers say they canceled the project because of the unfavorable construction bond market.

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Local News

Developers Cancel Museum Plaza

The proposed Museum Plaza project in downtown Louisville has been canceled.

The tower at 6th and Main streets would’ve been the tallest building in Kentucky. It was put on hold three years ago when the developers could not find a suitable bond deal to finance the project.

Hope for the $490 million project was renewed last year when city and state officials announced their intention to seek a $100 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The loan required the developers to find matching funds in the private sector, which they could not.

In a letter to Mayor Greg Fischer and Governor Steve Beshear, developers Steve Wilson, Laura Lee Brown, Craig Greenberg and Steve Poe said they will return the construction site to normal soon. The three spent at least $15 million of their own money on the project. Most of that went to removing an electricity transmission tower.

Brown, Wilson and Greenberg previously developed the 21C Museum-Hotel. They are also planning to preserve the Whiskey Row buildings on east Main Street.

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Local News

HUD Secretary Praises Museum Plaza Financing Plan

US Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan says he supports the efforts to use a HUD-approved loan to finance construction of the Museum Plaza project.

The ambitious development has been stalled for years. Last summer, city officials and the project’s developers announced plans to use money from HUD to get construction moving.

Some critics have questioned whether it’s appropriate to use HUD money for the project, but Secretary Shaun Donovan praised the strategy.

“This is a project that has applied to use a very innovative technique with HUD funds,” Donovan says “basically what the city has done is to say we’re gonna take some of our grant and we’re going to use it essentially as a guarantee against bringing hundreds of millions of dollars of private capital for revitalization.”

HUD has not yet ruled on the loan. The developers of the project still need to secure $140.5 million in additional financing before they can submit the final paperwork for the loan.

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Local News

HUD Letter Renews Hope For Museum Plaza Loan

Kentucky officials say they are on the verge of receiving a one hundred million dollar loan to help kick-start Louisville’s Museum Plaza project.

The state applied for the loan through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which uses private investments to help finance projects that will benefit multiple communities. Congressman John Yarmuth says he recently received a letter from HUD officials that said they were optimistic the loan could be arranged.

“I’ve never worked on one of these before so I don’t know whether it’s normal, but I will say that the letter would not have been sent if there was not a strong commitment that, if all the things falling into place outside of HUD, that HUD would make the commitment. They wouldn’t have sent the letter otherwise,” he says.

The loan largely hinges on whether Museum Plaza’s developers can secure 140 million dollars in construction loans. Yarmuth says with federal dollars likely on the line, the construction loans may be easier to obtain.

“My guess is that we will see the formalization of the HUD commitment before the end of the year. I would anticipate work would begin on Museum Plaza sometime in the first half of 2011,” he says.

Work on the 62-story Museum Plaza was stalled indefinitely in 2008 when the project became too difficult to finance.

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State of Affairs

State of the News

It looks like the political season is getting into full swing again. This week we saw debates between the Louisville mayoral candidates on Wednesday and the US Senate candidates on Thursday. In between, we got some news about museum plaza, and unemployment benefits, to name a few things. After we talk about Metro news, we’ll move out into the state and hear about a fraud investigation in Lexington and that darn leaking mustard gas. Join us Friday for State of the News on State of Affairs.

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Local News

Public Hearing Held On Museum Plaza Loan

by Gabe Bullard

A public hearing was held Wednesday on a potential loan for the $465 million Museum Plaza project in downtown Louisville.

Museum Plaza’s developers are working with the state on an application for a $100 million Housing and Urban Development loan. The loan is arranged by HUD in Washington, but the money would come from private investors and would be guaranteed and repaid by the developers.

Department of Local Government commissioner Tony Wilder says approval for the loan is largely dependent on potential job creation, but the developers’ guarantee will likely help.

“Normally these projects don’t require this kind of security guarantee,” he says. “Some states have actually taken a chance with those circumstances. We did not do it.”

The public input gathered Wednesday was the final step in the application process, and the request will be submitted to the Louisville HUD office on Friday.

“It takes about 30 days or so, or 40 days at HUD Louisville, and then another 60 or more at Washington,” says Wilder. “I suspect, given the high-profile nature of this project, it will probably be expedited a little bit.”

Wilder says three people spoke at the hearing, all of them in favor of the loan.

Due to financing problems, Museum Plaza has been stalled since 2008.