Museum Plaza plans come to an end; failure angers preservationists

Craig Greenburg
Craig Greenburg
Curtis Morrison
Curtis Morrison
Facades of Main Street building that were to be used as an entrance to Museum Plaza
Facades of Main Street building that were to be used as an entrance to Museum Plaza
Rendering of Museum Plaza
Rendering of Museum Plaza

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It would have changed Louisville's skyline, but Museum Plaza is now a no-go. Developers announced Monday morning they are abandoning plans for the futuristic 62 story skyscraper that was to be filled with condos, office space, hotel rooms, and retail stores. It was a vision to bring something new and different to downtown Louisville.

"It was an awful big project, but I was really looking forward to seeing that great big thing there," said Brad Broecker, a Louisville resident.

On August 1, plans for the building were scrapped.

"It's a disappointing decision and one particularly after seven years hard work," said Craig Greenberg, a partner in the Museum Plaza project.

Greenberg said the reason why the property adjacent to the Ali Center looks the way it does is a sign of the times.

"We were unable to put together a financing package that worked and is a reflection of the challenging economy, the challenging lending market that we have," said Greenberg.

Despite the down economy, the project had grown in size and cost since it was proposed in 2006 and after its groundbreaking in 2007. The 703-foot tall skyscraper was projected to cost close to a half-billion dollars, but Greenberg said no public money was ever spent.

'The plan was that nothing would close on the financing until everything closed," said Greenberg. "So as a result we never closed on the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) loans, we never closed with the city. So, our development team is the one taking the economic loss."

Although Greenberg wouldn't say how much was exactly lost, he adds a big loss is the jobs that would've come with Museum Plaza.

The big question now is what's next for the property.

"Time will tell," Greenberg said. "We are committed to restoring 7th Street. 7th Street was closed as a result of our initial site work. We will put that back."

"We are from the other side of the river, but we spend a lot of time in downtown Louisville," said James Porter, a Floyds Knobs resident. "I think it would be great to have another area we could check out and explore."

The Museum Plaza team spent $15 million to both remove a 10 story electrical transmission tower that had been an eyesore to the skyline and to reroute underground transmission duct banks.

Part of the process included knocking down four buildings in the 600 block of Main Street, while the team paid to restore the historic city-owned facades, for some its not enough.

Curtis Morrison who is part of Neighborhood Planning and Preservation now worries about what is next.

"We have faith that the developers are going to do the right thing and more often than not we find out that it doesn't happen," said Morrison

Morrison's organization wants a downtown preservation district to try to stop that sort of thing from happening.

"That way people can't go willy nilly tearing down buildings just because they have a plan," said Morrison.

The brakes on the Museum Plaza project are also affecting the University of Louisville which planned to house its Masters of Fine Art program there. UofL is now looking for a new location for that program.

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