In a special called meeting of the Historic Preservation Board Wednesday, Ed Ray, chief operating officer of Gulfstream Commercial Services, presented plans for a potentially 15-story building downtown which would house a new hotel, apartment units and a parking garage.
The project is still in design phases, Ray said, but Riverfront Brio, an affiliate of Gulfstream, wanted to present the project to the board in order to receive a variance on the height limitation for that zone of the downtown development district as outlined under Article 21.
“We need to be able to go vertical on that block,” Ray said. “The number of apartments, as well as the number of hotel rooms, puts us between 12 and 15 stories on the block.”
Currently, the downtown block, whose perimeter is Second Street to the north, Cedar Street to the west, Third Street to the south and Locust Street to the east, is divided into two zones. The northern half sits in the downtown core zone with a 4-story height limitation and the southern half sits in the downtown transitional zone with a 6-story height limitation.
“Today, we are asking for the recommendation of this board for a variance from both of the districts, subject only to the parameters of that lot,” Ray said. “When we consolidate those properties, we will address the zoning issues. At that time, we plan to work with the city to amend Article 21 to make that whole block the same zone, I imagine.”
Specifically, Ray asked the board for a height variance recommendation that would not exceed 15 stories, which was unanimously approved. That recommendation will be sent to the Board of Adjustments for approval in an April 11 meeting.
Estimated to cost upwards of $40 million, Riverfront Brio will add more residential space downtown, which is outlined in the downtown master plan and is the mayor’s main initiative of 2019. The project is expected to add 160 to 200 apartments of various sizes. Ray said Riverfront Brio is currently studying the need for studio, two- and three bedroom units. The proposed apartment building would be 12 to 15 stories and the parking garage to compliment the units would be five stories, adding approximately 474 spaces.
The hotel is estimated to be seven stories and 120 rooms. Ray said just before the Historic Preservation Board meeting he spoke with President of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau Mark Calitri who asked for a timeline on the new hotel. Calitri said he had been in discussions with the convention center staff about events for 2021 and 2022, but couldn’t place bids for those conventions because of lack of downtown hotel space.
“This opens new windows of opportunity to go after larger conventions that Owensboro has been unable to attract due to lack of downtown hotels,” Calitri said. “The larger the conventions, the more rooms might push out business to other hotels.”
The Historic Preservation Board understood the value of building up, allowing for potential riverfront views at the Second Street property. Should the Board of Adjustments approve the height variance, Riverfront Brio would be the tallest building downtown — the Owensboro Convention Center is eight stories and the RiverPark Center is seven — but the Roosevelt House would remain the tallest building in Owensboro.
The board has approved one other height variance in the downtown district. Fifth Third Bank, located at 500 Frederica St., was approved for one-story construction, which was less than the minimum two-story zone requirement of the downtown core.