Tuesday, August 07, 2007

U of L's $2.5 billion downtown expansion called Louisville's biggest ever

LOUISVILLE --The University of Louisville yesterday announced a $2.5 billion expansion of its downtown Health Science Center over the next two decades.

The expansion will create 2,200 jobs and 3.2 million square feet of construction, including research labs and parking garages, officials from the university, city and state said.

They billed it as the largest economic development project in the city's history.

"Our goal is to recruit and incubate new business," University of Louisville President James Ramsey said.

Plans for expanding the 30-block campus on the east side of Louisville's downtown include building six combined lab and office buildings in addition to research facilities and technology-enabled labs. In addition, infrastructure improvements will include relocating a ramp from Interstate 65 to lure businesses seeking to be close to the health sciences center.

The financing includes $1.8 billion in public funds and $700 million in private investments, Gov. Ernie Fletcher said. Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare have pledged $300 million of the $700 million.

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson said the expansion will have a "ripple effect" on much of downtown Louisville, creating jobs and spurring real estate in the area.

"We've created a lot of opportunity for that ripple effect to occur," Abramson said. "Great universities make great cities."

The university's announcement comes as the University of Kentucky is also investing heavily in health-related fields.

UK spokesman Jay Blanton said the university welcomes U of L's announcement, as it fits the missions of both schools.

"The University of Louisville has a mission to become a major urban research institution, and bio-technology has to be a critical part of that," Blanton said.

"Both institutions are handling what the higher education reforms advised us to do," he said.
Fletcher said new tax increment financing legislation, which allows investors to recoup money from various taxes to help offset construction costs, was key to the project.

The tax incentive plan is also being used to create the $465 million Museum Plaza project, a mix of offices, condos, restaurants, a hotel and a museum, in downtown Louisville, as well as a project in Northern Kentucky.

This from the Herald-Leader.

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