Local News

Heaven Hill to Open Downtown Bourbon Attraction

Heaven Hill Distilleries today announced plans to build a downtown Louisville attraction based on its Evan Williams brand of bourbon.

The $9.5 million Evan Williams Bourbon Experience will be housed in a company-owned building in the 500 block of West Main Street.

Evan Williams was a Welsh immigrant who settled in Louisville and set up a distillery in 1783, along what would become known as Whiskey Row.

“This area of main street was an important center of commerce for the bourbon industry, and now Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first commercial distillery, is coming back home to his original locale,” Harry Shapira, Heaven Hill’s executive vice president, said at a press conference.

Heaven Hill is now based in Bardstown.

Shapira says the renovated building will include a working distillery (left) and other attractions, including a huge bourbon bottle that will empty into a fountain in the building’s lobby (right).

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is scheduled for completion in September of 2013. The bourbon sector is making a comeback along the Main Street corridor. Michter’s Distillery announced last year it will transform a nearby building into a distillery that will offer tours and tastings.

(Information for this story also came from the Associated Press. Renderings courtesy of Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.)

Local News

Whiskey Row Announces First Phase of Renovation Plans

The gate to the deteriorating buildings on Louisville’s Whiskey Row opens. You can see your breath when you make your way across the floorboards that are littered with glass and garbage.

Craig Greenburg warns to watch out for soft spots on the floor and the smells of what once housed a night club.

“It’s almost impossible to miss, but when you open the door that smell that just comes out here is overbearing,” said Greenberg, a Louisville attorney and spokesman for Main Street Revitalization, LLC.

The group bought five of the buildings on Whiskey Row in August after they were nearly demolished by developer Todd Blue, who sold them for $4.8 million. The group is mostly anonymous and plans to develop the downtown buildings, which have remained vacant for decades and have since begun deteriorating. On Tuesday, they announced plans to begin renovating.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

New Owners Take Over Whiskey Row

A group of local investors who are planning a multi-million dollar renovation of the historic Whiskey Row buildings in downtown Louisville have officially taken ownership of the properties.

Led by developers Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, the group purchased four of the buildings for $4.8 million from businessman Todd Blue, who had previously sought to demolish the 19th Century structures. Blue will retain control of two properties, but donated a fifth building to the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation which, in turn, contributed it to the investment group.

The deal closed last Friday, and the investment team plans to move forward and renovate the buildings into a mixed-use development.

“We are excited about the opportunity to restore these Whiskey Row buildings into an innovative development,” says Wilson, adding of the debilitated buildings will start soon. “Our community owes a big thanks to Mayor Fischer for leading the effort to save these buildings.”

Local News State of the News

State of the News: Whiskey Row, LMAS and More

Today on State of the News we talked to WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and Dalton Main about Whiskey Row, the Louisville Metro Animal Services audit, and other local and regional stories. Then we joined Here & Now for a look at Mississippi River flooding, and what life is like in Japan two months after the earthquake and tsunami.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Council Approves Whiskey Row Deal

Receiving additional assurances from Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration, the Louisville Metro Council approved an emergency ordinance that allocates $1.5 million to help preserve a strip of 19th Century buildings downtown.

Earlier this week, the mayor brokered a deal with local developers Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown to purchase four of the seven historic Whiskey Row buildings along Main Street from businessman Todd Blue for $4.8 million.

On Thursday morning, the mayor’s office provided city lawmakers with an outline of a financial plan to save the historic block, however, council Republicans hesitated before agreeing to waive council rules to approve the emergency measure.

Initially, Metro Government agreed to use a city grant to salvage the structures, but Council President Jim King, D-10, proposed making the expenditure a loan that would forgive $100,000 in taxpayer dollars for every $1 million of private money invested in the project.

Members of the Fischer administration then met with the GOP caucus to explain additional details of the agreement, saying investors may back out of the deal if a vote wasn’t made by Thursday.

In the end, council Republicans agreed to support the measure in a bipartisan 19-to-1 vote despite their earlier misgivings about the process.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Council Receives ‘Fact Sheet’ on Whiskey Row Deal

Hours before the Louisville Metro Council meets to vote on an emergency ordinance to preserve a strip of 19th Century buildings downtown, the mayor’s office has provided members with an outline of the financial plan to save the historic block. But Republican members say they are still unwilling to support waiving council rules to approve an emergency ordinance until more details are made available.

On Monday, Mayor Greg Fischer announced that local developers Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, along with several anonymous investors, would purchase four of the seven buildings from businessman Todd Blue for $4.8 million.

Initially, Metro Government agreed to put up a $1.5 million grant to salvage the structures, but Council President Jim King, D-10, proposed making the expenditure a forgivable loan that would match private money invested in the project.

The mayor’s office and sponsors of the emergency ordinance argue the loan needs to be approved quickly because the “structures currently present an immediate threat to the public” due to their dilapidated condition.

Here and Now Local News

Thursday Here and Now: Floodwaters Rising, Whiskey Row Still Standing, Long Now Moving Slowly

Here’s what e’re working on for today at 1pm: Flood waters continue to rise from the Ohio Valley to the Gulf of Mexico. The Arkansas Farm Bureau reports today more than 1 million acres of cropland are underwater there. We’ll talk about the flooding and the damage with a farmer in Arkansas.

On Monday, President Obama will deliver the commencement address at the Booker T Washington High School in Memphis. The school beat out 450 other schools in a commencement challenge. So what makes the school so special? One of the seniors at Booker T. will tell us.

Louisville Metro Council members got a memorandum from Mayor Greg Fischer this morning that outlines how much it will cost to preserve the Whiskey Row buildings downtown. We’ll get details.

And we’ll find out what the Long Now Foundation is up to.

Here and Now starts at 1pm.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Whiskey Row Ordinance Deemed Emergency

Members of the Louisville Metro Council have introduced an emergency ordinance to spend $1.5 million to salvage the historic Whiskey Row buildings and are considering suspending council rules to allow a vote Thursday.

The sponsors of the bill say Mayor Greg Fischer has promised a memorandum of understanding to explain the deal before voting, but some city lawmakers worry the council is rushing to pass a bill before seeing any details of the development agreement first.

Minutes before Fischer announced a plan to save the 19th Century buildings, the mayor’s office sought bipartisan support for the legislation, but balked when asked to show specifics of the contract.

Councilman Glen Stuckel, R-17, says the Fischer administration would not share any contents of the deal made between Metro Government, businessman Todd Blue and a group of local investors, who have agreed to purchase four of the seven buildings for $4.8 million.

“The details are pretty important,” says Stuckel. “The word I got from the mayor’s office was that I would probably be able to see the ordinance on Thursday morning. They’d have it ready by then. And I asked if it would contain the details and they said, ‘well, pretty much the details are what’s printed in the paper’ and I said I’d like to read it first.”

Local News Next Louisville

$4.8 Million Deal Will Save Whiskey Row Buildings

A deal has been made to save the Whiskey Row buildings in downtown Louisville.

Through a previous agreement between Mayor Greg Fischer and owner Todd Blue, the seven buildings were slated to be demolished to make room for a parking lot, then a new development. Preservationists fought to salvage the buildings, and Metro Government then sought investors to buy them from Blue.

Those investors have been found in a team organized by the Downtown Development Corporation. Developers of the 21C Museum-Hotel Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, along with several anonymous investors will purchase four of the buildings for $4.8 million. Blue will donate an additional building and retain two for himself.

Wilson says he’s not sure what the buildings will be used for, but five will remain standing.

“We have 60 days to close and we’ll begin studying right away,” he says. “The first task at hand is stabilizing the building and once we feel comfortable about that, we’ll turn our attention to the purposes and uses of the buildings.”

The facades of the two buildings Blue will keep will remain standing, and Blue plans to build a new development behind them. He will also receive an adjoining parking lot for one dollar.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Hearing on Attempt to Delay Whiskey Row Destruction is This Week

A federal judge will hear arguments this week over whether to further delay the demolition of the Whiskey Row buildings in downtown Louisville.

Through an agreement between Mayor Greg Fischer and developer Todd Blue, the strip of buildings could’ve been destroyed as early as today. Preservationists fought the deal and last week they filed for a 60-day extension. A judge postponed the demolition until this Wednesday, when there will be a hearing on the extension.

But preservation attorney Steve Porter says the extension isn’t that important anymore. When the judge scheduled this week’s hearing, he also said Porter will be given advance notice of any demolition orders and he’ll have the chance to appeal the orders locally, not through federal court.

“He wasn’t going to hear an appeal of the demolition orders. He absolutely says that’s not in his jurisdiction,” says Porter.

Further, the judge granted preservationists access to a report on how dilapidated the buildings are.

“The 60 days became not very important once we got our advance notice and once we got a copy of that report and everything else,” says Porter.

A spokesperson for the mayor says the city has no problem with the advance notice order. Further, the city is working with interested buyers who may attempt to buy the buildings from Blue and keep them standing.