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Louisville Developers Announce Another Downtown Hotel—This One 'Funky' And 'Hip'

Louisville developers plan to build a new hotel downtown that will offer an upscale, modern option for people visiting the area.

“It's funky, its hip, its cool and its upscale,” says developer Steve Poe, whose company will lead the project.Aloft Hotels is a brand of Starwood Hotels and was launched in 2008 but are now located in 14 countries, officials say. The eight-story Louisville hotel will have 175 rooms and will be located on First and Main streets across from Whiskey Row.Aloft is one of at least four hotels that have recently been announced in or around Louisville's downtown area.“I think they’re all complementary," Poe says. "And once again I think there’s room for everybody and I think the fact that we have new upscale hotel rooms going into downtown, I think we’ll just continue to draw more new upscale travelers."Hotel occupancy in the downtown area is around 70 percent, Poe says, adding some nights hotels are fully occupied (Sunday nights are usually low). He says since the recession there hasn’t been a new supply of hotel developments, but now the market is returning.

Mayor Greg Fischer agrees that Louisville is experiencing its highest confidence level for development since the recession.“The future of downtown is strong,” he says. “We’re seeing all kinds of signals and indicators everyday that we’re moving in the right direction.”The city continues to look at ways to bring more retail stores downtown (naming the recent additions to the Fourth Street corridor)and says the city is considering different “angles” to bring a grocery store to downtown, Fischer says.The $22 million Aloft investment is targeting young guests who are both health conscious—Poe names Waterfront park nearby—and those wanting a unique place to stay. The hotel will use a public parking garage nearby for guests and it will also have a hotel bar called "W XYZ." “We believe this is a great location, we believe this is a great city, we believe this is a great economy and we believe this city has great leadership and great vision,” Poe says.Adding hotel supply to downtown is a positive thing, says Michael Howerton, the past president of the Greater Louisville Hotel and Lodging Association and current chair of the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau.For example, last week's FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America)  National Convention hosted most of the 60,000 participants within a 75 mile radius of Louisville, Howerton says. That's an example of when supply did not meet demand, he says.“If you don’t have the ability to host, you won’t be able to achieve those levels of conventions," Howerton says.For Poe, he says the timing is right to bring Aloft to Louisville, and says location is the number one priority for hotel developers.“We’ve got some great things going on here. We’ve got bourbon trails, we’ve got Nulu. We’ve got restaurants. People want to come and stay downtown and we’ve certainly got to make sure that they have good quality hotel rooms to do that,” he says.Construction is expected to begin in 2014 and be finished by May of 2015, officials said in a press release.

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