Riverfront rebirth: ‘This is going to change Bowling Green’

Published 4:27 pm Friday, May 5, 2023

“This is going to change Bowling Green.”

That bold statement by businessman Kelley Coleman just minutes after Thursday evening’s City-County Planning Commission of Warren County meeting may not be hyperbole.

Coleman and Patrick Reynolds, partners in Beech Holdings LLC, won approval from the planning commission for two grandiose projects that could very well change the city – or at least the part that fronts the Barren River.

Taking advantage of the city’s downtown Tax Increment Financing district and its plans for an outdoor adventure park along the Barren River, Coleman and Reynolds put together these two projects:

•“The Launch,” taking in 5.93 acres along Center and College Streets, E. Second Avenue and E. Riverview Drive and transforming it by building apartments and a hotel while transforming the historic Bohannon tobacco warehouse into a brewery and restaurant and making a portion of College Street a pedestrian-oriented shared street.

•“The Landing,” made up of 15.49 acres that at one time included the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1298 building at 1965 Ky. 185 and turning it an outdoor entertainment and recreation area that will include an amphitheater.

The two projects tie together, with plans to include an outfitter store at The Launch offering rentals of boats that can be used to take trips from the College Street pedestrian bridge to the Old Richardsville Road bridge that will be part of The Landing.

“Kelley and I have been working on this for over a year,” Reynolds said. “I grew up on the river. Our whole concept is to open up one of Bowling Green’s most beautiful resources: the Barren River.”

To realize their dream, Coleman and Reynolds, through Beech Holdings, bought a number of downtown properties and purchased the VFW property last year for $750,000.

On Thursday the business partners took the next step toward making the dream a reality when rezoning applications for both The Launch and The Landing were approved unanimously by the planning commission.

Coleman believes the timing couldn’t be better.

“If you think about it, we have seven miles of river frontage in Bowling Green that is vastly underutilized,” he said. “The city’s adventure park tees up perfectly with what we’re doing. That area is going to see a big boost.”

The planning commission members seemed to agree, as both rezonings passed in 7-0 votes with little discussion.

“This is a very progressive project,” said Commissioner Rick Starks. “There are many economic development possibilities in it.”

Some aspects of the downtown development aren’t set in stone. The developers presented a “low-rise” concept that would have roughly 200 apartments and townhomes and a “mid-rise” concept that would have more than 400 dwelling units and more parking.

Coleman said the final plan could be “somewhere between” the two concepts.

Completion of what Beech Holdings attorney Chris Davenport called “a very ambitious project” will take some time, Reynolds said.

“It will need to be phased in properly to be successful,” he said. “The multi-family part and the outfitter will be the first phase.”

Before any phase starts, the rezoning of the downtown acreage from light industrial to planned unit development must be approved by the Bowling Green City Commission and the zone change on the Ky. 185 acreage from agriculture and multi-family residential to PUD must be approved by the city and Warren Fiscal Court.

Reynolds, though, is already looking forward.

“With the amount of growth we’re experiencing, Bowling Green needs something like this,” he said. “There’s nothing I would like more than to see this be something that Bowling Green can be proud of.”