– Reporter, Louisville Business First

We’re now a week away from the Kentucky International Convention Center’s grand reopening ceremony, and the architects of the roughly $207 million renovation project said the new building has a new sense of identity that it previously lacked.

Lexington-based EOP Architects and the Chicago office of global architecture and engineering firm HOK provided new images of the construction and interior shots of the complex Monday, and they offered insights into the project’s design, which has been on their drawing boards for nearly four years.

The massive downtown convention center has been closed for two years as the western half of the building was demolished to make way for a much more modern design, heavy on glass and open space.

“We have really wrapped the internalized box [of the building] in a ribbon of glass to really be part of the city,” Peter Ruggiero, design principal with HOK’s Chicago office, said in an interview Monday.

Ruggiero noted that some convention centers are built on the perimeter rather than the middle of downtown, so it was the goal of both firms to make it part of downtown Louisville’s vitality and commercial growth. He said they did this by breathing life into the design and moving away from the closed-in, fortress-like design of other convention centers.

The new KICC has 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 40,000-square-foot main ballroom, 52 meeting rooms, a 175-seat tiered conference theater and a new kitchen that can accommodate as many as 15,000 meals per day.

The exhibit hall and ballroom space brought their own challenges as the existing footprint of the complex would not allow for that much space to be added, which is why part of the building is now cantilevered above Market Street.

And that feature adds new character that puts it in concert with the rest of the city, Ruggiero argued.

“This building has a dialog with the city, the people and the its surroundings,” he said.

Richard Polk, a partner with EOP Architects, said the building also improves a few nagging problems with the old KICC, including confusing signage that made it difficult to navigate the building and the lack of a “front door.”

Polk said his team worked hard to make the building easy to navigate while putting two main entrances and a grand canopy on Fourth Street to ensure it has a proper front door.

The grand reopening ceremony for KICC is 10 a.m. Aug. 6. As I previously reported, Chicago-based Levy Restaurants — the official culinary partner for Kentucky Venues at KICC and the Kentucky Exposition Center — plans to roll out Oak & Brew, a hybrid morning and evening spot that will show off Louisville and Kentucky culinary fare inside KICC.

During the morning, Oak & Brew will offer coffee and grab-and-go food items, and the concept will morph into a bourbon bar with an expansive bourbon list during the evenings, said Elizabeth Lessner, the new general manager of Levy Restaurants at KICC.


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