Monday, June 28, 2010

"It's bold. It's ambitious. It's striking," said Jerry Abramson, long time Mayor of Louisville and current hopeful Lt. Governor.
It is 61 story building soaring into the sky on a riverfront acre in Louisville. The building would contain 85 luxury condominiums, 150 lofts, a 300-room hotel, office space and a 1,100-car underground parking garage.

It was a $360 million project February 5, 2006 when announced and a radical skyscraper to be completed in 2010. At that time principals of The Museum Plaza building said the project would be paid for with private money and with income from the hotel, offices and the sale of condos and lofts. I recall the roll out. I was amazed and delighted that anyone would be so wealthy and believe in Louisville so much they could put that kind of money into a building like that.

Laura Lee Brown [yes the heiress to the Brown-Forman distillery conglomerate] and her husband Steve Wilson, are the dreamers. The couple is described as a "power" couple, which always makes me think their marriage and married life was negotiated on their wedding day, and renegotiated on the anniversary every year. They renovated an old building on Main Street into a boutique hotel 21C, that is evidently a destination for people visiting our city. They also tore down some porn shops and strip clubs next to the International Convention Center and built a Marriott Hotel downtown. They are supporters of every legacy charity in the city as well as the library.

Last week on Wednesday evening one local news channel had an interview with Mr. Craig Greenberg, one of Museum Plaza principal. He was telling us he had good news. Although the project had been stalled since 2008 when buildings surrounding the site were having their foundations crumble from anchoring the building and then work was not resumed because of "economic factors", that was going to change. His interview was to announce a press conference scheduled for the next morning.

The next morning our governor, mayor, Congressman and others I didn't recognize were standing on a dais at a microphone. They were discussing how fabulous it was that the project was again moving along. There was footage of the acre and all that was visible was junky land, orange barrels and broken concrete. Mr. Wilson spoke passionately about how hard his wife Laura Lee Brown had been working on this project; all the time, at all hours of the day and night, continually. "I'm proud of her for all her hard work."

Then the Governor spoke. The Commonwealth of Kentucky was applying for a $100 million loan from HUD. This loan would be used to secure further financing for the now $460 million building. The Brown-Wilson's would use $100 million of their own money as security to get the additional financing.

Thursday I was not delighted. I was disgusted. HUD is the Department of Housing and Urban Development whose mission is: 
…to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business.
Since The Museum Plaza is planned as a showplace for art, a home for the city's only Westin Hotel, luxury condominiums marketing to people leaving their half million dollar mini-mansions when the kids leave home, and lofts for 30-something metro sexuals, I cannot see the "affordable" aspect of this building. It is argued that over 1000 of this type of project has been HUD financed already in the country. This project though big, is only the third largest with LA and Houston having the largest.