The Louisville Cardinal

Rising from the rubble? Board leases land to U of L foundation

By James El-Mallakh–

An old coal powered factory that was once used to build trailers for semi trucks is now an open lot full of piles of bricks and rusted heaps of scrap metal. Within the next couple years, the land will most likely be another extension of the University of Louisville in the form of a research and academic park.

On April 5, the University of Louisville Board of Trustees approved the leasing of six acres of land to the U of L Foundation for the development of an academic and research center, a press release from U of L stated. The six acres of land are to be joined by 33 acres from the U of L Foundation.

President James Ramsey, in a presentation to U of L trustee members said that the eventual goal was to combine the joined properties into one piece of property. The lease agreement will fall under the conditions of a long-term lease. President Ramsey has outlined it as a 15-20 year effort.

According to Mark Hebert, the director of media relations for U of L, the university does not currently know what will be built on the newly leased property or what tenants will occupy any buildings.

“It could be a combination of academic buildings, a research building, a private company that would use U of L as its partner,” said Hebert. “We’re kind of feeling our way along on this one.”

U of L will wait until it knows what it will allow to occupy the buildings before constructing them. The university is having ongoing discussions with companies that have expressed interest in “tying in” with the university, though it is likely that an academic building will be built.

Ramsey also said the university is working on implementing a tax-increment finance district for the property, which would help increase revenue for the university. Currently there is no plan for who will pay for whatever buildings are constructed. According to Hebert, that will ultimately depend on what buildings are constructed in the area.

The land leased by the university is on the south side of the Belknap campus, between the J.B. Speed School of Engineering and the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. It is currently referred to as the old Kentucky Trailer property, after the U of L foundation bought the 33 acres from Kentucky Trailer.

The university’s continuing expansion is part of U of L’s long term plan of becoming a premier metropolitan research university, as mandated by house bill 1, passed in 1997, and outlined by the university’s 2020 plan.

One of the university’s goals to recover from successive budget cuts over the last decade has been to “utilize underperforming assets” or to build on property that the university has access to. The approval of the lease by the Board is just such an example.

jelmallakh@louisvillecardinal.com
Photo: Michael Baldwin/The Louisville Cardinal