Developers: Museum Plaza is Dead

18 42
Developer pulls the plug on Museum Plaza. (Courtesy MP)
Developer pulls the plug on Museum Plaza. (Courtesy MP)
Developer pulls the plug on Museum Plaza. (Courtesy MP)
Developer pulls the plug on Museum Plaza. (Courtesy MP)

Developers behind Louisville’s iconic Museum Plaza development designed by New York-based REX have pulled the plug, according to a statement  and a letter released today. In a letter to both Mayor Fischer and Governor Beshear, Craig Greenberg, one of the developers along with Steve Wilson, Laura Lee Brown, and Steve Poe, cited the recession and inability to secure financing for dooming the project.

From the development team’s statement:

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.

Developers had been attempting to secure a $100 million HUD loan along with pledges of up to $150 million from local and state governments. The rest of the $490 million project was to be privately funded and developers had already spent upwards of $50 million on the project, including $15 million to move major utility lines. According to Greenberg, the developers will rebuild 7th Street between Main Street and River Road and return the land to the city.

This story will be updated.

Letter from Craig Greenberg:

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.

Sincerely,

Craig Greenberg

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden is a writer and architectural designer living in Brooklyn. After graduating from the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, Branden practiced architecture in Louisville where he worked on several large LEED Certified buildings. Branden is the senior web editor at The Architect’s Newspaper, where he covers architecture, design, and urbanism. He has also written about design for Designers & Books, sustainability for Inhabitat, and architecture for the American Institute of Architects. He founded Broken Sidewalk in 2007, an online collaborative promoting architecture and urbanism in Louisville, Kentucky and the Midwest.
Branden is a writer and architectural designer living in Brooklyn. After graduating from the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, Branden practiced architecture in Louisville where he worked on several large LEED Certified buildings. Branden is the senior web editor at The Architect’s Newspaper, where he covers architecture, design, and urbanism. He has also written about design for Designers & Books, sustainability for Inhabitat, and architecture for the American Institute of Architects. He founded Broken Sidewalk in 2007, an online collaborative promoting architecture and urbanism in Louisville, Kentucky and the Midwest.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Very sad. This project was bringing a lot of positive attention to Louisville, and its completion would have been a major milestone in our development. Oh, well – Maybe someday.

  2. Ironic considering Mayor Fischer made a not-so-minor reference to the project and the benefits it would bring the city just a week and a half ago at the Sustainable City Series event.

  3. This truly is a shame. Whatever anyone thought of the design, or whatever, this was bringing a lot of positive attention to the city. So many major projects have been stalled or abandoned all over the world since the recession hit, so we are in good company I suppose, but I’m just hoping the momentum here in Louisville isn’t lost for developing downtown.

  4. Now that the project has been cancelled I would like to soon read about a feasible mixed use development idea on a smaller scale that will incorporate the historic facades. Having read a few articles today I’m confused as to what property is being given back to the city and what property will remain in the hands of the MP developers. If the people behind Museum Plaza retain the property on Main (which I am kind of assuming they are) I have high hopes for the space as part of that team did such a great job with 21C.

  5. I hate to see that this will not be built but the developer could not even build simple condos on River Road land that the city has already invested money, dismantle historic facades, relocate sewer and water lines and have the same results and Museum Plaza, chain link fence and half finished site work. Please Ms Bingham, invest your money for the U of L Arts but be more realistic.

  6. extremely disappointing. having grown up in louisville and recently finished my m. arch in nyc this project would have given louisville an unbelievable boost of credibility on the architecture scene. its the only project (or point of reference for that matter, save maybe the derby) that any of my classmates and/or professors could point to in kentucky. any time i would mention being from louisville the first comment would be, “when is museum plaza going to be done?” i’m not sure most people understood the magnitude of this project…REX is a world-class office and the project was known by literally everyone in the architecture community worldwide. its a real shame that louisville is losing out on laying claim to one of the most iconic buildings of the current generation. this project would have created such an energy and momentum for the arts, given a huge boost to tourism, and made louisville an instant player in the architecture world. with that said, i give wilson and brown major props for having the guts to bring in REX and attempt this bold project…heres to hoping they have something else up their sleeve.

  7. Maybe some other more modestly scaled projects can move forward. MP would have been great but no use crying over spilled milk. Louisville needs to take this opportunity to move forward within the constraints of the financial environment we live in.

  8. Museum Plaza would have certainly added an unexpected element to the skyline but the economics for this project did not add up before the recession. The real estate values in downtown Louisville do not justify building 62 stories up especially when there are hundreds of empty flat parking lots waiting for development. The only justification for building 40+ stories in downtown Louisville is for corporate identity and brand building. Furthermore, the presence of the outdated 1950s style elevated riverfront expressway makes developing the MP site particularly challenging. Hopefully the innovative thinking displayed by the MP builders can be expressed through multiple in-fill projects downtown and improving the unmarketable 1950s style elevated waterfront expressway that defines Louisville’s image to the world. Another fitting substitute would be a Museum Of Modern ARCHitecture in downtown Louisville.

  9. Certainly sad to see this project canceled. Does anyone else think it’s strange that this announcement was made at the same time the Whiskey Row sale closed? Certainly makes you start thinking that we’re only here about another backdoor deal Mayor Greg made.

  10. I liked the design, but not the scale of this project. The building was far too large for Louisville’s skyline and would have resembled nothing more than a monstrous Transformer/alien oddity clomping across the cityscape…

Leave a Reply