By  Sheldon S. Shafer • • October 4, 2011

After more than three years of sitting idle waiting for the economy to turn around, work is resuming on the RiverPark Place housing and marina project off River Road just upriver from Waterfront Park.

Financing has been secured to finish work on the 149-slip marina and construction will resume immediately, said lead partner Steve Poe. His group is developing the mixed-use project at the 40-acre site that city and waterfront officials have envisioned developing for two decades.

“We still believe in the project,” Poe said.

A new partner from Indiana is joining Poe’s group in the development. An Indianapolis-based, real estate investment and management company named REI plans to become a 50 percent stakeholder in the venture, Poe said.

It intends to buy up the interest of Poe’s other longtime local partners — investor Mike Ehrler and his family; accountant Nolen Allen and his family; and the family of the late businessman Clyde Ensor.

REI was a partner with Poe in the construction of the Louisville Downtown Marriott and also in the SpringHill Suites, also downtown.

Poe’s group, River Partners LLC, shelved plans to develop RiverPark Place in early 2008 amid the recession that squeezed lending for large commercial projects.

Much of the last year has been spent updating the Army Corps of Engineers construction permit and the developer agreement with the Waterfront Development Corp., which gives Poe’s group lease-purchase rights of the land at the project site.

The project was shut down in early 2008 after the partners had invested $16 million, including about $7 million to start the marina.

The money went for studies and infrastructure, including a seawall, about half of the marina, pilings for elevated parking, water lines and sewers, as well as preliminary roadwork and grading.

Mayor Greg Fischer’s office has scheduled a news conference for 10:30 a.m. Friday at the marina site to promote the resumption of work on the project.

Chris Poynter, Fischer’s spokesman, said, “This is great news, because the vision of Waterfront Park has always been to have a residential and a marina component that are now being provided.”

The marina financing includes both federal and state tax credits that were sold to U.S. Bank. The purchase of the credits is providing about $4.5 million in equity for the project. REI has agreed to furnish the $2.5 million needed to complete the marina, Poe said.

About a third of the 149 slips will be sold for $30,000 to $80,000 each, with the rest expected to be rented for $2,200 to $4,100 a year. Ten of the slips have already been sold, Poe said. He expects the slips to be available for use in April.

The income from the marina will be used to help fund construction of the planned housing, Poe said.

In addition, Poe said the new financing will pay for completion of the 16-foot wide asphalt and concrete promenade along the riverfront through the RiverPark Place site. It will complete a walkway from the Great Lawn at Waterfront Park on the downtown riverfront to Eva Bandman Park just upriver from Poe’s development.

The first phase of the housing portion of the RiverPark Place development will include 164 apartments built atop a parking structure with about 200 spaces. The apartments will range in size from one to three bedrooms and will rent for $625 to $1,400 a month.

The first housing structure will cost about $21 million. Poe said financing has not been secured but he said he does not anticipate doing so will be a problem. He predicted construction would begin by year’s end, with the first building to require 14 to 16 months to complete.

Poe said the partners plan to reopen a leasing office across River Road in late November.

Housing construction beyond the first phase is uncertain and will be driven by market demand. But Poe said a second phase with perhaps an additional 160 apartments should follow in short order.

If all goes well, Poe said RiverPark Place over the next 10 to 15 years may see development of more than 1,000 dwellings, the large majority of them condominiums. And he said the development could include restaurants and some retail and offices.

The RiverPark Place architects are K. Norman Berry of Louisville and Goody Clancy of Boston.

As an archeological concession to preservationists, Poe’s group, which signed an initial agreement to develop the site in 2004, has agreed to set aside about eight acres as a no-dig area.

Reporter Sheldon S. Shafer can be reached at (502) 582-7089.