Work under way on apartments by river

by Sheldon S. Shafer • The Courier Journal • March 11, 2012

After years of delays, work is nearing completion on RiverPark Place Marina, a 149-slip facility that will be a centerpiece of the RiverPark Place development just upriver from Waterfront Park along the Ohio River.

Boats should begin pulling into the $7 million marina in early April, said Steve Poe, the lead partner in RiverPark Place.

And construction is well under way — with most of the foundation in place — on a 167-unit, $25 million apartment building along River Road. The units at RiverPark Place are due to be ready for residents in early 2013, Poe said.

The building will include four levels of housing on top of a parking structure, elevating the residences above the river’s 100-year flood plain.

As many as 2,000 more dwellings are expected to be developed at RiverPark Place over the next decade or so, Poe said.

Along with the marina and the 167 apartments, phase one of the development will include completion in four to six weeks of a 12- to 16-foot-wide asphalt and concrete promenade about 3,500 feet in length along the river’s edge next to the marina.

It will connect with the existing walkway that runs the entire length of Waterfront Park to the west and a shorter shared-use path for walkers, bikers and joggers linking with Eva Bandman Park just upriver.

Mike Kimmel, deputy director of the Waterfront Development Corp., which oversees Waterfront Park and negotiated the development agreement with Poe on RiverPark Place, said, “The marina is going to be beautiful, and right on the edge of a $100 million park. People will be able to walk right along the river’s edge. And they can stop at the marina shop and get a soft drink.”

Plans for developing the riverfront site date to the late 1980s, when a previous investment group first proposed a mixed-use project called FallsHarbor. It was eventually shelved amid numerous setbacks, after which the Poe group, named River Partners LLC, was granted rights to try to develop the 40-acre site in 2004.

Poe tabled his efforts in 2008 as the recession began to deepen, but only after spending $16 million to start the marina as well as on extensive design, engineering and site work, including environmental studies.

Poe called the RiverPark Place site, which he is leasing from the city, “one of the premier pieces of property up and down the Ohio River — not only is it on the water, but it’s adjacent to a park, near downtown and five minutes from the interstates.”

After arranging financing with the help of federal and state tax credits that provided about $4.5 million in equity toward the marina’s construction, work resumed on the marina in November.

Crews have begun installing the floating docks. About 30 slips will be sold for about $40,000 to $80,000. So far about half have been purchased. The remaining slips will be leased for $2,700 to $5,950 a year.

Marina amenities will include parking, cable television capability, and electric and water hookups. Poe said each slip will have access to either an individual or shared floating dock. Slip berths are 40, 55 or 70 feet in length.

Poe said he expects owners of some large vessels to live on their boats year-round at the marina.

The marina will have one slip reserved for a marina store that will function as a small restaurant and also sell convenience items and supplies for boaters. It also will offer laundry, restroom and shower facilities for slip owners.

Larry and Linda Bailey, who live in Palymra, Ind., recently bought one of the slips. They formerly had a slip at the old Louisville Municipal Boat Harbor, where the new marina is being built.

“This will be one of the finest areas to dock and the setting will be picturesque. It will be a real safe community,” said Larry Bailey, who now has a large boat docked in Utica, Ind. He said Poe is building an extra-large, 100-foot slip for the Baileys that will allow two vessels they own to be berthed. Bailey said the couple will pretty much live at the new marina year-round, adding that “we probably will have to put a mailbox up on River Road.”

Harris Bank of Chicago provided the construction loan to build the first apartment building. Just over half of the units will have one bedroom, and the rest two bedrooms, with space ranging from 550 to 1,300 square feet. The units will lease for $699 to around $1,500 a month. Each will have a balcony.

Poe said he has been getting a large number of inquiries about renting the units. A leasing office has opened at 1250 River Road, with formal pre-leasing to begin in May.

Poe said his company eventually intends to develop as many as 2,000 apartments and condominium units in about a dozen residential buildings at RiverPark Place. The plans call for at least two 17-story residential towers as well as seven or eight restaurants, plus retail and office development, Poe said.

Construction on a second apartment building could begin soon. But Poe said the schedule of subsequent housing at the site will be driven by how quickly the units are leased or sold.

REI, a real-estate investment company based in Indianapolis, recently joined Poe as a 50 percent partner in the entire venture, buying the interest of some other local investors.