Parcels B and C’s new ownership is now official and the owner says he wants to create something great for Frankfort.
The state Finance and Administration Cabinet transferred the deed for the former Capital Plaza land to New Frankfort Development LLC on April 1, according to the deed for the property.
The nearly 12-acre property is the site of the demolished Frankfort Convention Center and adjacent Fountain Place Shoppes. The property also includes the land under the YMCA and Capital Plaza Hotel along with an existing state parking garage.
New Frankfort Development LLC, owned by Hazard developer and businessman Luther “Marty” Johnson, was awarded Parcels B and C in November after bidding $1,000 on the property with the promise of investing millions.
Johnson was the sole bidder. According to the bid, the estimated fair market value of the property is $223,000.
To bid on the parcels, Johnson had to stick to a list of state requirements, which included incorporating the Downtown Master Plan’s ideas for mixed-use residential and commercial development and a state-mandated 300-space parking garage to meet contractual obligations to the Capital Plaza Hotel.
According to the deed, the parking garage must be completed within two years, or by April 1, 2022.
If NFD fails to meet that deadline or take reasonable and diligent steps to meet the deadline within a 60-day notice, the property will be transferred back to the state.
In February, CRM Companies President and CEO Craig Turner, who is working with Johnson on the project, gave a presentation on the future of the property during a joint meeting of the Frankfort City Commission and Franklin County Fiscal Court.
Part of that presentation included how the project will be funded. For the public portion of the project, such as the parking garage and sidewalks, Tax Increment Financing was suggested.
In March, City Manager Keith Parker told The State Journal the process to decide whether to fund the project with a TIF will be delayed due to COVID-19. The process requires a public hearing, which won’t be possible until social distancing guidelines are relaxed.
On Friday, Johnson told The State Journal he’s not worried about COVID-19 delaying the project and keeping NFD from meeting the state’s obligations in time.
Johnson said there is still plenty of time to meet the state’s requirements and he values the safety of those who will be working on the project.
“Right now, I’m not that concerned about that,” Johnson said. “I think the state will take an active role in this, and if it does take longer, I think they will understand that. You can’t put people’s lives at risk for this. I won’t anyhow. I just can’t do that. There’s no business deal in the world to me that’s worth losing one life.”
Johnson said as soon as it's safe to move forward with the project, his team will “hit it as hard and as fast as we can.”
When asked for an update on the plans for the site, Johnson said he hopes a new YMCA will be part of those plans.
He said he’s already been talking to some vendors who are interested in moving into the space.
On Feb. 10, Turner showed preliminary plans for the project, which includes renovating the Capital Plaza Hotel, building up to 216 new apartments and extending Washington Street to Mero Street.
On Feb. 3, the city commission voted to give $2.5 million over five years toward a new Frankfort YMCA. The Y is expected to cost $9.5 million and would be located at the corner of Mero and Washington streets.
“I’ve been very blessed in life, and I want to do a good job for Frankfort,” Johnson said. “... I'm not that interested in enriching myself here. I'm more interested in making Frankfort a better place to live and a better place to do business.”
Johnson reiterated his goal with this project isn’t “getting a bunch of money stuffed in (my) pockets.”
“The goal is to do something great for Frankfort,” he added.