Louisville skyline likely to change

By Matt McCutcheon - e-mail | bio

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The fate of a major change to the Louisville skyline was learned Friday morning when city leaders announced plans to seek a $100 million federal HUD loan to fund the Museum Plaza project.

It's a 62-story skyscraper planned for 7th and Main in downtown Louisville.

In addition to being one of the tallest buildings downtown, the project could also bring a major economic boost to the area.

Once completed, the building could employ thousands of people working for various tenants that could occupy the building.

The building would take more than two-and-a-half years to build according to developers.

The project has suffered a variety of setbacks in recent years, mainly tied to the economy.  As banks have scaled back their lending, projects that could be deemed as risky are among the top ones that didn't get loans.

"It's time for us to just build the thing," Councilman David Tandy laughed at the podium.

"We thought possibly that we would be here for a ribbon cutting," said Kentucky Senator David Williams.

That's because the tower was slated to be completed by the end of this year.  That was the optimistic goal during the fall 2007 groundbreaking.

"Tragically, only a few days after that event, the bottom fell out of the housing market and financing became unavailable," said developer Steve Wilson.

Now the government is getting involved, as city and state leaders will now apply for a $100 federal HUD loan.

"The federal money through this program is guaranteed risk free to the state under the proposed set-up for this project.  State government will simply act as a pass through agency.  We will not be responsible for any debt," Governor Steve Beshear said.

"You've got to really give a tip of the hat to the governor and the team that have been working with this extremely innovative approach to get this project back on track. Never has this been done in Kentucky before," said Mayor Jerry Abramson.

The project's total price tag comes in at roughly $465 million for the 62-story mixed use tower which includes office and residential space along with hotels and restaurants.

Several funding sources account for a piece of that pie – from the University of Louisville which will hold its MBA program there, to bond issue money – a pie that now centers around one main ingredient.

"Without the HUD loan, it will extremely challenging to get Museum Plaza back under construction in the near future.  With the HUD loan, we're confident we'll be back under construction," said project developer Craig Greenburg.

The application now heads to Frankfort in early July before its officially submitted to the feds.  This is a first for Kentucky.

If the tower is built, developers say it will add 4,500 temporary construction jobs and 2,300 permanent jobs.

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