RiverPark Place continues rising, turning dreams and plans into reality

So far, the waterfront project RiverPark Place has a lot in common with the Panama Canal, the Eiffel Tower and the Coliseum in Rome.

Steve Poe

“We’ve been at this for a decade, and it will take another decade before we’re done,” says developer Steve Poe of the 40-acre, $1 billion-plus commercial/residential enterprise designed as part of Louisville’s waterfront revitalization.

(Actually, the aforementioned landmark construction projects were completed in 10 years. At 20 years, the project would be on par with the Great Pyramid of Giza.)

Yet like those earlier landmark construction projects, RiverPark Place promises to vastly alter the landscape and life in the surrounding area.

The waterfront before Waterfront Park or RiverPark Place (top left).    -- Photo courtesy of Waterfront Development Corporation

With the first 167 apartments completed and fully occupied, the second 160 units are expected to be available as soon as Dec. 1. Now Poe’s ready to begin construction on a 16-story condo tower.

It’s been a long slog for the project, and Poe says he’s been fortunate his company has been able to keep at it.

Poe’s real estate development company submitted the winning design for high-density housing outlined in a 2004 RFP for the project to connect Eva Bandman Park with the green space and recreational land of Waterfront Park.

Even then, the waterfront was being reclaimed from its industrial past and years of neglect but had yet to become the green space of today, or that which is continuing to evolve.

Poe said he went into the project assured that all the necessary permits were in order for the planned marina and housing. Not so, he found out. Nevertheless, they broke ground on the project in 2007, began installing infrastructure and pre-selling condos.

Rendering of the view from RiverPark Place toward the city.

“We knew it would take 10 to 15 years to complete this project, and we planned for some bit of downturn during that time, but I didn’t anticipate having to stop before we’d even started,” he said, referring to what many refer to as “The Great Recession.”

Nevertheless, he said, “I had about 16 million reasons not to quit.”

By 2008, that’s the dollars he had invested in infrastructure and permitting for the site, without yet erecting any buildings. With financing drying up in the softening economy, Poe decided to mothball the project. At the time, he already had collected $38 million in deposits on condos and marina slips.

Years passed. Work finally resumed on the project in 2011 as the economy picked up and federal and state tax credits paved the way. The $10 million 150-slip marina was completed in May 2012, and the first phase of RiverPark Apartments was completed in May 2013. The next phase – most units are less than 1,000 square feet and rent for less than $1,000 a month – are being leased now.

Overall, the project is expected to provide 2,500 housing units, along with ground-level commercial space for several restaurants, shops and offices. A 12,000-square-foot restaurant (run by the same folks that manage Doc Crow’s) is due to open next summer.

To find out more about the project and tour a model condo unit, join Insider Louisville for Thursdays at RiverPark Place, 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Oct. 30. Appetizers, beer and wine will be served. You can register for the free event here.

Steve Poe will be on hand to meet and talk about the history of the project and the amenities of the new urban community. Thursdays at RiverPark Place will continue on Nov. 6, 13 and 20 at Poe Companies’ offices, 1250 River Road, from 4:30-6:30.