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New CityPlace center taking shape in La Grange

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Former Southern States property renovated into convention space

By Kenny Colston

 

A new convention and event space located in the heart of La Grange is just months away from being finished, according to the foundation in control of it.

Made up of a plaza, a visitor’s center and two pavilions, the newly created CityPlace will be located off First Street, where the old Southern States store was located. The plans for CityPlace first developed nearly a year ago, when George Rawlings, owner of the Rawlings Corporation, bought the old Southern States property through his foundation.

Now, after a year of tearing down and gutting old buildings and completing renovations, Rosendo Usandaziga, the director of the Rawlings Foundation and a 25-year resident of Oldham County, said the new center should be ready by September.

“Our first event will be Sept. 13,” Usandaziga said. “It will feature the Louisville Chorus and Louisville Philharmonia. It’s a free concert, out in the plaza with more than 100 musicians.”

The event is expected to draw a couple thousand people to La Grange, he said, a goal of the foundation in building CityPlace.

“We want to bring business to the county, bring business to our local businesses,” Usandaziga said. “We want to create foot traffic for all of downtown.”

Usandaziga declined to provide a price tag for the renovations on the property, because the focus isn’t on making a profit off CityPlace, he said, but instead to help showcase La Grange nationally.

“The vision of Mr. Rawlings is to show La Grange, Oldham County and the people what La Grange could be in the future,” Usandaziga said. “We want to bring people in, bring businesses in, get foot traffic so La Grange can grow.”

The idea would be to attract annual national and international conventions and conferences to CityPlace, he said.

Usandaziga will help direct CityPlace, while Karen Greenwell has been hired as an administrator for the property. The Rawlings Foundation will have offices in the visitor’s center, joining the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce and Discover Downtown La Grange in the building on First Street. An open reception area, staffed by DDL, will anchor the building, while a conference room will be set up for the Chamber.

A plaza with landscaping and a water feature will separate the visitor’s center and pavilion one. The building, which has occupancy of 175, is 5,500 square feet and will feature seven 80-inch TV screens, as well as wood paneling and tile. It also features a front, side and back porch which are covered and heated, Usandaziga said.

Across the street from pavilion one is pavilion two, which is the larger of the two at 6,500 square feet. Pavilion two will hold up to 400 people, with the same interior decorating. It will feature 16 80-inch TVs and the two pavilions have the compatibility to sync the TVs between the two to show the same feature, he said.

The goal is for the pavilions to hold “dinners, large meetings, conference and conventions,” Usandaziga said. It will not be available for private uses, such as wedding receptions, he added.

In addition to the opening concert, CityPlace is likely to have additional concerts, art shows and other events on the plaza and in the pavilions, Usandaziga said.

“There are some events we’re planning now,” he said. “We’re working on them but we’re not ready to announce them yet.”

And while the new CityPlace hopes to attract thousands for events, it won’t have parking onsite to accommodate those visitors. Instead, the goal is to have people park throughout La Grange and walk to CityPlace to allow them to visit the town’s restaurants and shops along the way.

“We want people to walk through town,” Usandaziga said. “There’s plenty of parking throughout the town and they can walk. We had a choice between two little buildings and a parking lot or to build something nice.”

There will be a small lot for the employees of the Chamber and DDL to park at, but not enough for general public parking.

In addition to the concerts planned and potential “international conventions,” Usandaziga said the foundation is also discussing a partnership with the La Grange Farmer’s Market to use pavilion one, but that those plans aren’t firm.

“We’re being very selective with events,” he said. “We’re trying to set a standard, we want the city and the county to be the best it can be.”

The foundation will retain ownership and control of CityPlace, Usandaziga said, and they are still in talks on what type of events the space will cater to.

“We haven’t recognized the full potential of this place yet,” he said. “Once we get this place up and running, we don’t want to limit ourselves.”

For more information, contact Karen Greenwell at 502-814-2403.

Email us about this story at editor@oldhamera.com.