At the Louisville Downtown Partnership, we believe the economic engine of any great city starts with a strong downtown. The major renovation of the Kentucky International Convention Center has triggered a period of unprecedented development in Louisville’s urban core that has, and most certainly will continue to transform downtown.
In just two years, hospitality investment already completed in downtown has reached $550 million. An additional $343 million is under construction, and another $243 million is planned.
Since the renovation began, downtown has seen the Omni Hotel, Home2Suites and Homewood Suites open adding 845 hotel rooms. Three additional hotels are under construction and four more are planned, which will add another 861 rooms.
When the convention center closed its doors in August 2016, many downtown businesses were understandably concerned about their ability to sustain their operations during the closure. Due to the great work of Louisville Tourism (formerly Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau) maintaining as much convention business as possible and focusing on leisure travel, most enterprises survived and many even thrived during the two-year period. It is a testament to these businesses’ spirit of entrepreneurship, savvy and sheer will that our downtown stakeholders are ready and poised to welcome the influx of convention visitors that will be in our city.
Three bourbon attractions opened during the period of the convention center closure, further adding to downtown’s Bourbon District. With two more distillery attractions slated to open later this year, the Bourbon District will consist of nine distillery attractions upon completion. Featuring historic site signs, destination signs, banners, a pop-up “event scape,” and the iconic barrel, the uniquely walkable Bourbon District will gain global recognition as a travel destination.
When the convention center reopens on Monday, it means the size and type of convention Louisville is able to attract will be significantly elevated to include a more diverse group of attendees, reflecting a larger variety of income levels. These conventioneers will be visiting Louisville for the first time. So often, we hear how surprised people are by how much Louisville has to offer. We expect convention visitors will be more likely to return to experience the world-class amenities available downtown.
The impact of the re-opening of the convention center and the future convention business that will be seen and felt throughout downtown has profound long-term positive repercussions on development well beyond the hospitality industry. A vibrant and active downtown has a broad appeal to people of all ages. Many folks want to live where the action is, and countless others want to live where they work. As a result, downtown housing will increase by 39 percent by the end of 2019. Increased downtown residential will result in a cascading addition of more retail and services in the urban core.
The convention center renovation contributed significantly to the transformation of downtown, and the revitalization momentum experienced over the last two years remains strong, and the city’s future has never been brighter.