10:57am

Mon August 1, 2011
Business and the Economy

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 yearwhen 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.

Here is the full announcement and letter to Fischer and Governor Steve Beshear:

Museum Plaza will not be built.

Museum Plaza may be remembered by most as the story of a bold dream.  To those of us on the development team, Museum Plaza will be remembered as a seven year journey that reinforced the power of teamwork, tenacity, and innovation.  An iconic building will not be built, but we hope that we have laid a foundation for ourselves and others to realize the aspirations we pursued.

Through this process we have endured four years of the worst recession of our lifetime and the most challenging lending market ever. There are no signs of improvement in the near future. We were realistic, yet undaunted, as we pursued many financing options. A completed financing plan seemed within reach but even with all of the help from the public sector, in the end, we were not able to put together a sensible financing package. As much as our team wanted to make Museum Plaza a reality, as much as our team had already invested financially and emotionally in the project, we painfully decided that this project could not be built in this economy.

This effort showed what’s great about our city and state – the ability to work together and make a difference.  We are fortunate to have elected leaders who can put partisanship aside to support progress and to have a business and labor community that can work together to make things happen.  Our team owes a big thanks to the hundreds of people who worked with us on this project.

We can look back on some tangible things Museum Plaza and our team contributed to the City . . . the 10-story eyesore on our river front that was an electrical transmission tower was removed, four historic facades in the 600 block of West Main Street were stabilized and preserved, Whiskey Row is being saved, public contemporary art exhibits have begun to sprout up around our community, and the community’s focus on architecture is more focused than ever.  But, more importantly, we are looking forward to the future.  Our team remains committed to pursuing bold ideas to make our community better and we will use the lessons learned from Museum Plaza to make the next ones realities.

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For more information please see attached letter to Governor Beshear and Mayor Fischer.

August 1, 2011

Dear Governor Beshear and Mayor Fisher:

I am writing on behalf of the Museum Plaza Development Team to formally notify you that we are ending our efforts to build Museum Plaza.   As you well know, the economy changed drastically since we began this project and, as a result, putting together a sensible financing package has not been possible.

We want to thank you (and your respective predecessors in office) very much for all of your help and encouragement.  Museum Plaza was a model public/private partnership and we look forward to working with you on future urban revitalization projects.

Governor, as a result of this decision, the Commonwealth should withdraw our pending application to HUD for the Section 108 Loan.

Mayor, as a result of this decision, our Development Agreement with Metro Louisville will terminate.  Our development team has made significant improvements to the City’s land that was to be Museum Plaza.  Most notably, we spent $15 million to reroute the underground transmission duct banks that rendered the site undevelopable and to remove the 10-story electrical transmission tower that was an eyesore on our skyline and to the view from the Science Center.  And, we stabilized and preserved the four historic facades at 615 – 621 West Main Street, while removing the City’s crumbling buildings behind those facades (remember the tree growing out of the façade!).  We plan to restore 7th Street between Washington Street and River Road so that it can be re-opened.  We look forward to working with you and your administration to wrap up our activities and investment related to the site.

While we are disappointed with our decision, we are already looking to the future.  Our team remains committed to pursuing bold ideas to make our community better and we will use the lessons learned from Museum Plaza to make the next ones realities.

Thank you again for your tireless and enthusiastic support for Museum Plaza every step of the way.