LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville is working with a developer to build a six-story Marriott-branded “conference center hotel” with a ground-level Target store and restaurant near the heart of its Belknap campus.
The hotel would provide an essentially on-campus option for visitors, who are currently directed to lodging a few miles away near the airport or downtown, as well as educational opportunities for students in business management and a potential future hospitality program, said U of L Chief Financial Officer Dan Durbin.
"This places an amenity right on the edge of our campus that adds a great deal of convenience for our students," Durbin told WDRB.
The development would replace the aging one-story “Cardinal Center” retail building at S. 4th Street and Cardinal Boulevard that housed the former Gray’s Bookstore and currently has a convenience store, laundromat and other businesses, according to documents prepared for a U of L board of trustees committee that will consider the project today.
Provident Resources Group, a nonprofit development firm based in Baton Rouge, La., would build and manage the hotel until bonds financing the project are fully repaid. After that, U of L would be entitled to full ownership of the hotel or its net cash flow after expenses, according to the term sheet.
Provident didn't respond to a request for comment. It has built hotels, conference centers and student housing at several other universities, according to its website.
Durbin said the university's formal support of the project will allow Provident to investigate the feasibility of financing it. With U of L as the beneficiary of the project, the developer is able to obtain cheaper, tax-exempt bonds, Durbin said.
The trustees’ finance committee will be asked to sign off Thursday on a non-binding letter of intent to move forward with legal agreements for the project.
U of L has “no financial obligation” in the deal other than leasing the portion of the site it owns to accommodate it. But the site is primarily owned by a private party, Cardinal Center LLC, according to property records.
"This is ... a very attractive proposal. And that's one of the reasons we're interested in this," Durbin said.
An attorney who has represented the Cardinal Center partners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The documents don’t list a timeline for the project, and Durbin said Provident controls the timing.