LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A University of Louisville project that weathered the economic downturn reached a milestone Wednesday, with the opening of an eight-story building that will anchor a downtown research park expected to help nurture Kentucky's technology sector.
UofL officials hope the structure, which cost about $20 million to build, is the first in a cluster of research and technology centers on the former Haymarket property near the university's medical campus. Tenants already have signed leases to occupy almost all of the new building near the downtown business district.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said the research park will be a "key component of Louisville's ongoing transformation into a major research and innovation hub."
"This really is the future of Kentucky's economy," Beshear said at the building's grand opening.
The project is being funded by the UofL Foundation, the school's fundraising arm. It's being financed through the issuance of bonds, with the aid of tax credits.
The development, called the Nucleus, has been talked about for a decade as a way to provide start-up support for homegrown entrepreneurs and to help recruit high-tech companies to the area, but the project was slowed by the recession that hit late last decade.
"Some people thought we were crazy for taking on a project like this," said UofL President James Ramsey.
He said the school's persistence on the project has paid off. Tenants have agreed to leases for all but 3,000 square feet of the 200,000-square-foot building, and there's a commitment for the remaining space, he said.
"It proves again that we just don't talk the talk, we walk the walk," Ramsey said.
The lead tenant will be Atria Senior Living, one of the country's largest operators of senior housing. The Louisville-based company will move its corporate support center into the building. It will also be used to train the company's culinary staff from across the country.
Other tenants include health care ventures.
The development's leaders already are planning the next phases for the research park. The next project will be construction of a parking garage, and the long-term goal is to build three more research buildings on the site.