Commission may ease RiverPark Center's search for tenants

Nate Pagan

The Owensboro City Commission is scheduled to consider a municipal order on Tuesday, July 16, that would give the RiverPark Center more leeway in finding a future tenant for the former home of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum.

City Hall maintains a lease agreement with the RiverPark Center for its use of the entire space west of Smothers Park, which includes an auditorium, theater and office space but also extends southward to the Turley Building, from which the bluegrass museum recently moved.

According to City Manager Nate Pagan, that lease currently limits use of the Turley Building to civic or performing arts occupants, but, as the search continues for a new tenant, he said, the city wanted to provide the RiverPark Center board of directors with a broader range of prospects.

"The amendment will say that any new tenant only has to be subject to city approval and remain in accordance with (zoning) Article 21," Pagan said Monday. "I don't think this means a new tenant has been identified, but it's a prospective measure since we know the RiverPark Center is looking."

Article 21 of the Owensboro Metropolitan Zoning Ordinance outlines appropriate uses of space in the Central Business Overlay District downtown.

As part of a three-party agreement reached last summer, the city of Owensboro will pay the RiverPark Center slightly less than $200,000 to help rehab the space for use by staff or any future tenant. Although the city owns the entire Daviess Street lot, the bluegrass museum was a sublessee of the RiverPark Center, leaving the space in its hands. When the museum moved out, it only compounded the financial problems the entertainment venue faced.

The RiverPark board launched a fundraising campaign earlier this year that, in addition to helping retrofit that space, will finance much-needed improvements to the performing arts center as a whole.

Gulfstream Commercial Services has been contracted to help find a future tenant.

According to RiverPark Board Vice-Chair Doug Field, finding that tenant remains a top fiscal priority.

"With the bluegrass museum moving out, we are no longer receiving any payments for the use of that space," he said. "So, we’re bearing utility and other costs. Until we get a tenant, we’re in the posture of having increased costs without additional revenues."

Field said several parties have toured the space and at least some are in the process of negotiating with the board and determining whether the space could meet their needs. He would not comment on what types of businesses or organizations were interested in the site, saying only that "we want a tenant who would be good for downtown and who could move in quickly so that (the board) can be focused on other needs."

The city commission will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday on the fourth floor of City Hall, 101 E. Fourth St.

Austin Ramsey, 270-691-7302,, Twitter: @austinrramsey

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