River Park set to break ground before year’s end

Financing for the River Park mixed-use project next to Hollywood Casino is nearly lined up and a groundbreaking should be held before the end of the year, the developer told the Downtown Development District Commission on Tuesday.

In other business, Michael Lang, manager for the redevelopment of the Commerce Building, said interior demolition of that property at Third and Laurel streets should begin in the next 60 days.

Pete Clements said it’s been “a long road” for his 50-acre River Park development, which will include restaurants, live music venues, residences, hotels, a park and a boardwalk along the Mississippi River. Clements has been working on the project for five years.

“It took us three years just to get the approvals for the underpass and we just got the Corps of Engineers permit for the park and boardwalk,” Clements said. “And the financing market was the worst I’ve seen in years.”

Mark Drennan, who is serving as a consultant for River Park, said financing for the project is “95 percent complete.”

Last month, the Metro Council voted to re-authorize a tax increment financing district for the $600 million project, which will rebate the 2-cent local sales tax collected in River Park.

The project will be financed in a variety of ways, including tax credits, Clements said. Specific details won’t be released until the financing for the project closes.

Clements said between 18 and 22 restaurants and bars are committed to River Park, including a dueling piano bar, an Asian fusion restaurant, a beer garden, a Mexican restaurant and a tapas restaurant. The names of the restaurants, which include local and national chains, will be released once financing closes.

The exact number of restaurants and bars in River Park has yet to be finalized, Clements said. The commitments include everything from signed leases to letters of intent that will be converted.

Agreements are also in place with an entertainment company to provide 168 live music events a year in River Park. There will be two performance areas in the development: a 1,500-seat theater and a 40,000-square-foot outdoor music venue.

“This will be a regional destination,” Clements said. “You’ll have people coming from 60 to 120 miles for entertainment.”

Additional phases of River Park, which will include a hotel and retailers, are in the works.

In his report to the DDD, Lang said everything inside the Commerce Building, except for the columns and slab, will be demolished.

“We’re going down to the raw bones,” he said.

Plans are to turn the 175,000-square-foot building into a mix of loft apartments, retail and a restaurant, with interior parking.

Milton J. Womack Inc. has been selected as the contractor for the $22 million project, Lang said. The final details of the contract are being worked out.

Pat Fellows, owner of Fresh Junkie Salads + Wraps, also told the DDD that he will open a second location of his restaurant in October. It will be in the North Boulevard space that had been occupied by Capital Creamery. Fellows said the new location will have the same menu as the Main Street Market Fresh Junkie, but will be twice as large.