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4 years later, Museum Plaza still on track?

by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on February 8, 2010 at 5:56 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 8 at 6:36 PM

Tuesday marks four years since an announcement that promised to change the Louisville skyline forever, but construction is still on hold for Museum Plaza, which would be the tallest skyscraper in Louisville.

Developer Craig Greenberg, one of four developers of the project, says he remains hopeful, adding that there has been some progress, such as the removal of both LG and E's 10 story transmission tower and underground duct banks for electrical transmission lines.  Yet, after financing became "nearly impossible" in the national credit crisis, Greenberg says he is no longer making predictions for a construction start date.

"We unfortunately got stuck by the unprecedented national financial crisis that made it nearly impossible to complete the financing for the project, but we continue to work extremely hard to making this project a reality,"  Greenberg said.

Everything about Museum Plaza is big. 

  • At 703 feet, it would be 73 feet taller than the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO.
  • It has an estimated price tag of $490 million.
  • About $150 million in city and state money is funding infrastructure improvements around the project.
  • And, it's been a big wait to see any significant progess.

So is Museum Plaza still going to happen?

"It's still going to happen, as planned," insisted Greenberg.  "We've looked at it every which way, in terms of tweeking the plan as time has passed but this still makes the most sense for all sorts of reasons.  And it will happen."

Even Greenberg acknowledges that the longer it takes to begin construction, public doubts will increase.

"We hear it directly and mostly third hand.  We understand that there are skeptics out there but all I can tell you is that there is an extremely committed team in place here,"  and the original architect and team of developers are all still on board, Greenberg said.

A future downtown neighbor, Barbara Sexton-Smith, who lives in a Main Street condo, said "I think it's human nature for someone to be skeptical, but this baby's going to fly.  I never doubted for one second that Museum Plaza wasn't going to make it.  And just think of what it's going to do for not only the skyline of our community, but for economic development, and job growth. This is going to be the greatest thing to happen not only in Jefferson County, but in the Commonwealth of Kentucky."

Museum Plaza is actively marketing the residences for sale in a sales office at 7th and Main downtown.  A sample 3100 square foot condo offers a photograph of the view from the 40th floor.  The "model home" condo would cost about $1 million.

The project includes about 150 condominiums, a Westin Hotel, and an art museum and several businesses in the island at mid-structure.

Construction was brought to halt two years ago after neighbors in 19th century buildings complained about the vibrations from drilling for huge concrete pillars ten feet into solid bedrock.

"We believe we've addressed all of these issues and when we restart construction, we will be installing the foundations with a different method than we originally used," Greenberg disclosed.

He said that he's hopeful that construction will start this year.  With a 30 month construction timeline, the earliest Museum Plaza would be complete is late 2012.  But there is a silver lining to this delay -- Greenberg revealing today that it could cost significantly less than originally forecast because construction and raw material costs have dropped in a down economy.

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