“If you were going to go to a restaurant, cafe, bar or specialty shop in Frankfort, where would you go?”
That is the question Kentucky Capital Development Corp. President and CEO Terri Bradshaw and a group of those reviewing the Downtown Master Plan posed in emailed letters sent to nearly 280 businesses in Lexington, Louisville and elsewhere in central Kentucky informing them that Frankfort is within an opportunity zone, a low-income, distressed and contiguous district where investors can receive significant federal tax breaks and deferrals for investing in a variety of economic development projects.
“We have a plan, we have a strategy for what we believe our downtown will look like and we think they will fit into that strategy,” Bradshaw told the KCDC board in a meeting Tuesday. KCDC is waiting for responses.
The board also discussed the recent sale of the former Pic-Pac property in South Frankfort to Frankfort businessman Charles Booe. KCDC contacted 14 different grocers to gauge interest in the property.
Since the purchase, Booe has conducted an informal Facebook poll, which garnered more than 300 comments, asking folks what they would like to see on the property.
"Overwhelmingly, the community is interested in it being some sort of grocery operation," he told The State Journal, adding that he has made initial contacts with groceries including ethnic grocers — specifically Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican and Indian operators.
“We got better responses from small chain markets, and the reason is they can do it and make more return on their investment than individuals can,” Bradshaw said.
Though some have expressed interest in the property, not many have interest in the actual Pic-Pac building purchased by Booe.
Regarding the KCDC’s downtown redevelopment strategy, Bradshaw said it’s a “chicken or egg” conundrum.
“Do you have all the amenities and then the people want to live there, or do you get all the people there and then they need the amenities?” she asked. “It’s kind of both.”
KCDC has contacted city Finance Director Jennifer Jenkins to obtain a monthly report of new businesses opening in Frankfort. KCDC will send a letter to each new business once they get a license from the city.
“We’ll continue to work with them to find out who those folks are,” Bradshaw said.
After discussion by a review committee, the board OK'd a $10,000 loan to Sig Luscher Brewery, a heritage brewery that operates a taproom at 221 Mero St., to be paid back within five years at an interest rate of 3%. The KCDC previously provided loans at a 2.5% interest rate, such as one to West Sixth Brewing two years ago to run water lines to its new Franklin County farm.
As interest rates continue to change, Bradshaw agreed with other board members that a precedent should be set for interest rates on loans to local businesses.
“It reflects the competitiveness of the financial times we’re in,” said Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells.
A review committee will meet to set a standard for determining interest rates in anticipation of future loan requests, with Bradshaw noting that “the purpose of a revolving loan for us is to build a bigger loan pool so we can help more businesses.”