Thursday, January 21, 2010

Panel will oversee convention center project planning


By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 7:44 AM CST
A special five-person committee will be given the responsibility of overseeing the planning, development and construction of a downtown Owensboro convention center under a plan unveiled Wednesday.

As outlined by Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire, Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne and Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves, the committee will make a wide range of decisions about the convention center, including selecting architects and contractors, with the help of consultants experienced in the convention center business.

The final authority over the convention center project will fall to the Owensboro-Daviess County Industrial Development Authority, under an interlocal agreement to be drawn up between Daviess Fiscal Court, the Owensboro City Commission and the Industrial Development Authority, whose members are appointed by the two governing bodies.

Fiscal Court and the City Commission will have to approve establishing the oversight committee and the interlocal agreement. Haire said he intends to bring the oversight committee before Fiscal Court today for approval.


The five-person oversight committee will include Haire and Payne as well as Mike Horn, Larry Maglinger and Steve Ford. Horn is an entrepreneur and business owner, Ford is an insurance company executive and Maglinger owns an audio and video business and has knowledge of the entertainment industry.

The Industrial Development Authority, which will act on the oversight committee’s plans, is a six-person board consisting of Haire; County Administrator Tony Sook; Susan Free, program manager of the Kelly Autism Program of Owensboro; Jiten Shah, executive director of the Green River Area Development District, City Manager Bill Parrish and City Commissioner Candance Brake.

Haire said the arrangement removes the convention center planning and development process from the direct control of Fiscal Court and the City Commission, meaning that changes to the makeup of the elected bodies through elections will not derail the building of the convention center, estimated to cost close to $20 million if not more.

The county is building the convention center, but the city may have to contribute money to the project if its costs more than the $17 million to $18 million the county has available for it, Payne and Haire said.

“This is an election year and Fiscal Court will change and the City Commission could change,” Haire said. “This is one of the largest investments the city and county will make. There’s reason to have consistency from the beginning to the end. It’s to the public’s benefit and the hotelier’s benefit. It would be catastrophic if the county decided not to do it or the city decided not to put money up. The question was, how do we do it now?”

By placing the ultimate authority with the Industrial Development Authority, the project’s future is ensured, Haire and Payne said.


“The key is placing the money outside the control of government,” Payne said. “The Industrial Development Authority will hold the $17 million and be directed to construct a convention center.

Payne predicted that the current City Commission will approve additional funding, perhaps as much as $7 million, for the convention center from its downtown redevelopment contingency fund if and when it is needed. Those additional costs should be known before the end of this year, he and Reeves said.

Last week city officials announced that The Malcolm Bryant Corp. had been selected as the preferred developer to build a $20 million downtown hotel that will be attached to the convention and events center. If a development agreement between Bryant and the city is approved, construction will start this year and be finished in 2012. Ideally, the convention center will be built on the same time frame, officials have said.

Some of the duties of the convention center oversight committee will be to spell out the relationship between the convention center and the hotel owner, determine the appropriate size and layout of the convention center, seek public input on design and construction, negotiate contracts with food and concession providers, negotiate agreements with local organizations for use of the facility, establish policies for pricing and use of the facility, ensure that it serves the convention, entertainment and sports needs of the community for years to come and make sure that prevailing wage rules are followed and work to use local contractors and suppliers in its construction.

“We’ve got a lot of different players, so we thought it was important to have a steering committee to make decisions, but not in isolation,” Payne said. “... I have followed the judge-executive’s leadership. It’s well done. We will get this accomplished.”

The committee will need outside assistance, said Reeves. A feasibility and use study will be done, which will determine the size and layout of the convention center, he added.

“The first study is critical,” said Haire. “In the meantime, the committee of five is ready to identify what additional help we will need.”

Payne called the convention center the linchpin of downtown redevelopment.

“This is the key project,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we do it right. What we are doing here will do that.”

Steve Vied, 691-7297,svied@messenger-inquirer.com

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bryant proposes Hampton Inn & Suites


By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 12:07 AM CST
A $20 million, 150-room, five-to-seven story Hampton Inn & Suites hotel, attached to 75,000-square foot convention and events center, will grace Second and Frederica streets in downtown Owensboro under a proposal still to be worked out between the developer and the city.

On Monday the Messenger-Inquirer learned that The Malcolm Bryant Corp. of Owensboro had been selected as the company that would be recommended to build the hotel. On Tuesday it became official -- the company owned by local longtime commercial real estate developer and property manager Malcolm Bryant is the "preferred developer" for a downtown Owensboro hotel.

Nick Brake, president and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., told the City Commission at its Tuesday work session that a special committee had designated the Owensboro company as the developer of the hotel and was recommending that the city work exclusively with the company to reach a development agreement.

Mayor Ron Payne expressed confidence in Bryant and his company to build and operate the hotel.  "Look across the community at all the successful projects Malcolm has done," Payne said. "We're excited about his willingness to do this. He's a strong corporate citizen. He cares about this city."

Brake said Bryant's was the most financially sound of the three finalists' proposals.

"Malcolm's group had the best financial model to pull it off," he said. "It is really important to get a hotel and convention center back in this community and he provided the best model to do that. We did a very objective process. There were three strong candidates and at the end of the day, his was the best for the community. It is a very compelling package. He has the means and the track record to do it."

Bryant called it a profound day for his company.

"Regardless of the economic climate, we are in the best position with the cooperation of public entities to have a very successful placemaking initiative downtown," Bryant said. "This will add very high quality and value to our downtown and the community. One thing we have learned is, it's important to do things very well or don't waste the money or the energy. Customers demand it."

Bryant said he sensed that local government and residents were behind the downtown revitalization project. An upscale hotel figures to be a cornerstone of the project.


"We saw the stars aligning correctly with the citizenry, public entities and our company to be very successful," he said. "I believe we will be incredibly successful. We're extremely excited.'

Bryant said construction of the hotel, pending the signing of a development agreement with the city, could start this fall and the hotel would open sometime in 2012. Ideally, the convention and events center would open at the same time, he said. The hotel would feature a destination restaurant with its main entrance on the street but accessible from inside the hotel and capable of catering convention center events.

"We're moving very cautiously forward," Bryant said. "The market is not here right now for this hotel. It will have to be created. ... We have the opportunity to explode. This hotel and everything that goes with it must succeed."

Bryant said the hotel project he is proposing has the potential to be a true mixed-use project, with retail, office space and residential components.

Brake said the only incentive requested by Bryant was to be given the land for the hotel at no cost. The city is negotiating with the state to purchase the site, where the state building now sits, for $1.74 million.

When the requests for proposals from hotel developers were issued last summer, five proposals were received, Brake said. Two were eliminated early. One of the remaining three eventually dropped out, leaving two "viable, pretty strong" proposals, according to Brake.

Steve Vied, 691-7297, svied@messenger-inquirer.com

Monday, January 4, 2010

Couples find downtown living appealing


By Steve Vied
Published: Sunday, January 3, 2010 12:02 AM CST
Messenger-Inquirer



John and Adrienne Condray and Vance and Heather Girten are young Owensboro couples who have lived the urban lifestyle and enjoyed it. In a matter of months they intend to begin replicating that experience in Owensboro.

The Condrays and Girtens are moving into two of four custom condos currently under construction on the second floor of the Smith-Werner Building at 116-122 W. Second St. Larry and Rosemary Conder are renovating the Smith-Werner Building at a cost of $1 million or more.

The Condrays will live above the Gambrinus Libation Emporium at 116 W. Second St., which recently opened, and will operate the business. Adrienne Condray is the Conders' daughter.




One of the oft-stated hopes for a revitalized downtown Owensboro is that a residential element will develop, with people living in loft apartments above businesses and offices. The Condrays and Girtens won’t be the first downtown residents, but the number isn’t great.

The Condrays lived in downtown Memphis before moving to Owensboro to manage the Gambrinus. John, 34 and a graduate of Brescia University, was a commercial credit reviewer for a large bank. She is a teacher.

“We could have lived anywhere, but we got spoiled in Memphis working a block away from where we lived,” he said. “Everything was within five blocks.”

To a lesser extent, the Condrays will have some of the same opportunities in downtown Owensboro.

“We love Colby’s, the Bistro, the Miller House and there’s a pharmacy,” Condray said.

As the downtown area develops, the Condrays expect their living experience to be enriched.


“There’s already an entertainment district with the RiverPark Center,” Condray said. “We’ve seen what a downtown can be like and what it can hold. We really think Owensboro can be that at a smaller level. We’re within walking distance of several great restaurants. We want to complement everything else, not be a competitor. We want to attract more people downtown.”

Condray, who said he hasn’t felt the desire to mow grass since he was 15, said downtown living may not be for everyone.

“You have to have a desire to be more urban,” he said. “There’s not an urban feel to Owensboro, but maybe there will be once you get people down here and see what it can be like. ... You can have a nice house in the middle of everything else. Right now the people it’s most desirable to are empty nesters who want to downsize.”

Condray has a vision for what he’d like downtown to become.

“A corner grocery would be great,” he said. “We’d love more restaurants. We don’t have a problem with pubs and bars. I’d like it to be a shopping and dining district with locally owned pubs and bars... there’s tons of room to grow. When we heard about the master plan, that was a key component for us. We would have loved to see a baseball park, but we’re excited to see the hotel and convention center.”

Adrianne Condray is looking forward to watching the downtown evolve.

“It’s exciting to see changes and be here from the beginning and see people migrate downtown,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to live in the city. In Memphis, it was a community within a community. It didn’t feel like a huge city.”

The Girtens share a rural background. She’s from Hancock County. He’s from Union County. But after living in an urban setting in Lexington while in pharmacy school at the University of Kentucky, the idea of living in an apartment overlooking Owensboro’s Second Street is especially appealing for the couple.

It helps that Owensboro is about halfway between their families. Heather Girten is a pharmacist at a local supermarket. Vance Girten is on schedule to graduate from UK’s pharmacy school in May and intends to work at an Owensboro-area pharmacy.

“We plan to stay in this area,” Girten said. “We got Rosemary’s number and she had something planned and we stayed in touch. We liked what they had in mind. We like where they are going.”

The Girten’s are interested in the downtown Owensboro redevelopment project and want to be a part of it, Girten said.

“We’ve seen the poster boards,” he said. “It looks like a pretty big development. It will be a neat experience to see those changes.”

Girten said he appreciates history and the community’s decision to reinvigorate its downtown riverfront area interests him.

“They are bringing it back to the way it should be,” he said. “That’s why Owensboro is here. (The river) is still very important.”

Mainly, the Girtens are seeking an urban lifestyle.

“Stepping out the door and grabbing a cup of coffee or walking to dinner is definitely attractive,” he said.

Lofty Living: Downtown's potential draws some to live there

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer

Published: Sunday, January 3, 2010 12:02 AM CST

John and Adrienne Condray and Vance and Heather Girten are young Owensboro couples who have lived the urban lifestyle and enjoyed it. In a matter of months they intend to begin replicating that experience in Owensboro.
The Condrays and Girtens are moving into two of four custom condos currently under construction on the second floor of the Smith-Werner Building at 116-122 W. Second St. Larry and Rosemary Conder are renovating the Smith-Werner Building at a cost of $1 million or more.
The Condrays will live above the Gambrinus Libation Emporium at 116 W. Second St., which recently opened, and will operate the business. Adrienne Condray is the Conders' daughter.
One of the oft-stated hopes for a revitalized downtown Owensboro is that a residential element will develop, with people living in loft apartments above businesses and offices. The Condrays and Girtens won't be the first downtown residents, but the number isn't great.
The Condrays lived in downtown Memphis before moving to Owensboro to manage the Gambrinus. John, 34 and a graduate of Brescia University, was a commercial credit reviewer for a large bank. She is a teacher.
"We could have lived anywhere, but we got spoiled in Memphis working a block away from where we lived," he said. "Everything was within five blocks."
To a lesser extent, the Condrays will have some of the same opportunities in downtown Owensboro.
"We love Colby's, the Bistro, the Miller House and there's a pharmacy," Condray said.
As the downtown area develops, the Condrays expect their living experience to be enriched.
"There's already an entertainment district with the RiverPark Center," Condray said. "We've seen what a downtown can be like and what it can hold. We really think Owensboro can be that at a smaller level. We're within walking distance of several great restaurants. We want to complement everything else, not be a competitor. We want to attract more people downtown."
Condray, who said he hasn't felt the desire to mow grass since he was 15, said downtown living may not be for everyone.
"You have to have a desire to be more urban," he said. "There's not an urban feel to Owensboro, but maybe there will be once you get people down here and see what it can be like. ... You can have a nice house in the middle of everything else. Right now the people it's most desirable to are empty-nesters who want to downsize."
Condray has a vision for what he'd like downtown to become.
"A corner grocery would be great," he said. "We'd love more restaurants. We don't have a problem with pubs and bars. I'd like it to be a shopping and dining district with locally owned pubs and bars ... there's tons of room to grow. When we heard about the master plan, that was a key component for us. We would have loved to see a baseball park, but we're excited to see the hotel and convention center."
Adrianne Condray is looking forward to watching the downtown evolve.
"It's exciting to see changes and be here from the beginning and see people migrate downtown," she said. "I've always wanted to live in the city. In Memphis, it was a community within a community. It didn't feel like a huge city."
The Girtens share a rural background. She's from Hancock County. He's from Union County. But after living in an urban setting in Lexington while in pharmacy school at the University of Kentucky, the idea of living in an apartment overlooking Owensboro's Second Street is especially appealing for the couple.
It helps that Owensboro is about halfway between their families. Heather Girten is a pharmacist at a local supermarket. Vance Girten is on schedule to graduate from UK's pharmacy school in May and intends to work at an Owensboro-area pharmacy.
"We plan to stay in this area," Girten said. "We got Rosemary's number and she had something planned and we stayed in touch. We liked what they had in mind. We like where they are going."
The Girten's are interested in the downtown Owensboro redevelopment project and want to be a part of it, Girten said.
"We've seen the poster boards," he said. "It looks like a pretty big development. It will be a neat experience to see those changes."
Girten said he appreciates history and the community's decision to reinvigorate its downtown riverfront area interests him.
"They are bringing it back to the way it should be," he said. "That's why Owensboro is here. (The river) is still very important."
Mainly, the Girtens are seeking an urban lifestyle.
"Stepping out the door and grabbing a cup of coffee or walking to dinner is definitely attractive," he said.

Payne: Jobs, arts to be 2010 focus

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer


Published: Thursday, December 24, 2009 12:18 AM CST
With Owensboro's big riverfront and downtown development projects well under way, Mayor Ron Payne said Wednesday it's time the city turned its attention to a couple of other subjects -- namely economic development and arts funding.
The first is all about jobs.
"I have asked Nick Brake (president of the Owensboro Economic Development Corp.) to make a presentation at our first work session of the year on our economic development efforts," Payne said. "I want to hear a little on what we are focusing on. Is it time we started looking for ways to grow jobs? Owensboro is changing. So many things in the city are in a state of flux. With HON and GE, we see manufacturing jobs going away."
More than 350 local jobs are scheduled to disappear in 2010 with the announced closing of the GE and HON plants. However, as Payne noted, many construction projects are under way, and Owensboro Medical Health System is scheduled to begin construction of a hospital next year.
"We're becoming a regional medical center," Payne said. "What can we do to take advantage of that? How is Kentucky Bioprocessing doing? Where will jobs come from? ... It doesn't hurt, every once in a while, to take a look and ask 'How are we doing? Are we doing it the right way?' "
Kentucky Bioprocessing was created by OMHS almost four years ago to buy the former Large Scale Biology biomanufacturing center in Owensboro, which had closed in 2005. Today, the bioprocessing company is working with 12 to 15 clients in the United States, Germany, Canada, Lithuania, Great Britain and Italy, according to chairman Hugh Haydon.
"We really need to raise these issues on the community's agenda," Payne said. "We've spent the last year working on downtown and other construction projects, and we'll have some announcements soon about downtown and the National Guard Armory. Now we have the ability to look into other concerns, including the future of our arts programs."
Payne said local arts organizations struggle for financial stability, some more than others.
"I want to look at stabilizing arts financing," the mayor said. "That also fits into economic development. It's very important to economic development."
Payne mentioned the possibility of a selecting a group or committee to look at arts funding, not unlike the committee he appointed this year to study the Owensboro Riverport Authority.
"We've got a lot of talented people and I'd like to tap into that pool of talent to look at the arts issue," he said.
Dean Stanley, a board member of the Economic Development Corp. and chairman of the Owensboro Museum of Fine Arts board, commended the mayor for wanting to focus attention on jobs and arts funding.
"It's the right step to take a look at those areas," Stanley said. "Both are critically important to the community. Owensboro has a long history of its cultural base. Certainly, all of the entities we are generally familiar with, funding is always an issue. The economy has made it even tougher."
As for economic development, Stanley said Brake has provided outstanding leadership to the Economic Development Corp. and its efforts to lay the groundwork for future prosperity with attention to the bioprocessing, health care and retail sectors.
"That's been the appropriate thing to do, recognizing that with the traditional types of efforts with manufacturing, there's simply not a lot of opportunities there," Stanley said.
Stanley said the different entities involved in economic development locally work well together.
"I haven't seen them working at odds with each other," he said.