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Louisville To Replant Gardens?

04:01 PM Tuesday 7/9/13 |   |

Louisville officials want to revitalize the history-filled Louisville Gardens, a downtown venue that once hosted an Elvis Presley concert and Martin Luther King Jr., speech.

The city's Metro Council included in its 2013-14 budget a directive that the Metro Department of Economic Growth and Innovation issue a request for proposals to restore activity to the 6,000-seat, three story arena that was once an armory.

The city's economic-growth director, Ted Smith, told The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/12fwR6k ) the city may send out a request for proposals in the fall to see what interest there is in the facility.

The Gardens opened in 1905 as an armory, and over the decades was the site of hundreds of sporting events, graduations, concerts and other activities. Events were phased out after city-county merger in 2003.

The Baltimore, Md.-based Cordish Co., which runs the 4th Street Live entertainment district in downtown Louisville, held an option on the building for five years, but nothing came of the project. Smith said Friday Cordish officials are still interested in seeing the successful development of the Gardens, ``but to date they have indicated that they do not have a project concept for the building.''

``They have offered to make introductions to other operators, such as for use by a minor league hockey'' team. Smith said. ``These uses would require a significant public subsidy, and it is our hope that other uses will be proposed by others that do not have these requirements.''

Smith acknowledged city officials have had expressions of interest from a few groups and have allowed interested parties to tour the structure.

He said some of the groups ``envision market-rate apartments and others indoor public market space. And there are educational uses that many of our higher education institutions could explore.''

Despite the interest, Smith said, developers who looked at the Gardens have not submitted a letter of intent or to request an option.

Cordish plans to develop a project called Center City in the old Louisville Water Co. block in the area just east of 4th Street Live. Once those plans are clarified in coming months, Smith said, the city may be ``in a clearer position on the Gardens.''

Smith said the plans for the Center City project could ``change the economics'' for the redevelopment of the Gardens.

Cordish several years ago gave the city a cost estimate of $15 million to $20 million to do a ``Cadillac'' renovation.

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