Blue believes bourbon will make a difference in downtown Louisville.
The KFC Yum! Center
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's hard to argue downtown Louisville has not transformed over the past 15 years, especially with the additions of the KFC Yum! Center and Nulu, and one entrepreneur couldn't be happier about the progress.
Todd Blue, the CEO of Cobalt Ventures, invested in and fought for a lot of the growth downtown.
Almost 15 years ago Blue and his company started putting their money where their mouth is. Eventually developing places such as the Mercantile Gallery Lofts and Preston Point.
Blue will tell you the big kick start to downtown came with the building of Louisville Slugger Field, ironically on the land Blue's family started a business on 100 years ago the Louisville Scrap Material Company.
Blue said downtown needed to come back to its roots, back to the river, "Fifty years ago you really have to say Jefferson Street and Broadway were really our downtown, it is for sure not all the way back to the late 1800s where our downtown was really focused on the northernmost part of downtown and the river and I think that's really the right strategic direction."
With Blue being a part of the arena authority his dream came true for a downtown arena, now the KFC Yum! Center bringing people from all over the Metro together for games, concerts, meals and drinks.
"The arena is almost like the cathedrals were 200 years ago. It's a center of our community. It's a communal place," Blue said.
Now he believes bourbon might make the biggest difference, helping to make downtown distinctive with tasting rooms and distilleries, "Let's make bourbon our niche, or one of our niches, and really focus on creating a point of differentiation for our community in the same way Napa Valley does for wine and other communities do for other things."
Blue said it will take three things to keep downtown Louisville on the move, "At the top of the list we need more corporate headquarters and more jobs."
Next Blue sees the need for more rental units for residents, "That allows for younger people to afford to live downtown and most importantly populate downtown because a populated downtown with busy streets actually equals a safer downtown."
And third, a substantial grocery store and other small shops aimed at residents, "Something where the services are there and that obviously can only come demographically after residents."
Blue said the biggest boost of all would be to reward and encourage not only the large institutions, but the individual risk takers so they will invest, "You've gotta keep swinging to hit that home run you know, the biggest home run hitters are always the strikeout kings, so you gotta keep swinging."
Blue recently made the news with the buildings he owned in the Iron Quarter Whiskey Row part of downtown near First and Main Streets.
Preservationists wanted those buildings to be saved, something Blue said wasn't feasible in a for-profit venture, but he said he's glad some locals came forward to make a contributory gift to restore those structures.
Cobalt Ventures still owns a portion of that block with plans for parking and maybe, someday, a hotel.
Friday, July 25 2014 9:20 PM EDT2014-07-26 01:20:00 GMT
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