Bill Weyland Reflects on 25 Years of Reimagining Downtown Louisville

Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the old saying goes. Nor was downtown Louisville reimagined in a day.

But it was the inspiration of Rome on young architecture student Bill Weyland that provided the impetus for downtown Louisville to experience a sustained renaissance that started in the early 1990s with the restoration of what is now the headquarters of Hillerich & Bradsby and the Louisville Slugger Museum.

Bill’s passion and inspiration led to a career focused on bringing languishing properties back to life in his beloved hometown. These revitalized structures have, in turn, re-energized the blocks around them.

For the past 25 years, Bill has put his University of Notre Dame degree in architecture to use in pursuit of redevelopment efforts through his firm, now known as Weyland Ventures. Whether operating as Design/Build Partners or City Properties Group, LLC, Bill’s firm has never wavered from its mission to remake once glorious buildings into purposeful, beautifully restored structures. And if they happen to be mixed-use projects, combining residential, office and commercial uses, better yet.

Typically, Bill’s vision doesn’t stop at restoring a building. He wants to see the surrounding neighborhood flourish as well. And if that ripple effect requires complementing a renovated building with new structures to accentuate and support its use and bolster the block, Bill makes it happen.

Consider what’s now known as the Clay Commons District in the area around Fourth and Chestnut streets. It includes The Henry Clay, the Hilton Garden Inn, the PARC parking garage, the Mercury Ballroom, and the Guthrie-Coke Building. Bill’s fingerprints are all over the creation of that downtown “neighborhood.” Since he literally saved The Henry Clay mixed-use property from scheduled demolition in the early 2000s, the neighboring Weyland projects followed, and a reawakening of a stretch of Fourth Street that was mostly dormant since the 1970s has emerged with a vibrancy that any downtown would be proud to claim.

The same could be said for the Glassworks District on West Market Street, Whiskey Row on East Main Street and multiple redevelopments in the NuLu area on the eastern edge of downtown.

Don’t underestimate what it took to achieve any one of these revitalizations. Not only has Bill transitioned from staff architect to business owner and real estate developer and landlord, he also has become an accomplished financier. Renovating deteriorated structures and restoring their original integrity is an expensive objective — more costly than building something new.

Undaunted, Bill and his team became adept at using creative financing approaches to fund their redevelopment projects. They find investment partners with like interests in preservation. They use historic tax credits. They apply for tax-increment financing districts. They pursue gap financing options of all kinds. In fact, he and his Weyland Ventures staff have become well known for their creative financing expertise that’s matched only by big concerns on the Coasts. As such, Bill and team serve as consultants throughout the country and in recent years have begun to take their downtown reimagination work beyond the borders of Louisville.

This isn’t just good work. It’s hard work. It’s the kind of painstaking endeavor that only someone with a serious passion and a lot of patience would ever pursue. And Bill Weyland delights in seeing his firm’s projects through to completion.

Mayors, business executives, fellow architects and preservationists duly credit Bill for his achievements. His efforts have earned him awards of all kinds. Examples of local and national honors for design and leadership he has received include the Preservation Alliance Award for Design Excellence, the Forbes National Innovation Award, a 2006 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, the 2015 Visionary Award from the Louisville Downtown Partnership and Louisville Business First’s 2009 Eagle Award of Excellence as Small Company Leader of the Year.

But Bill doesn’t do this work for the acclaim. It’s not pats on the back or trophies that drive him. It is his desire to revive the vibrant downtown Louisville of his childhood that pushes him to bring to life what he sees in his heart and his mind where others see deterioration and demise.

And his mission is not complete.

The next generation of Weylands has picked up the baton and is pursuing Bill’s desire to wrangle with complex financing, repurpose solid, well-built structures for modern purposes and manage their holdings. Is it in their DNA? Is it a witnessed passion woven into who they are? Perhaps it’s a combination of both. Today, three of Bill’s five children are not just carrying on their father’s vision — they are carrying it forward into other cities and states.

When the Weyland Ventures brand was launched two years ago, that transition signaled a realignment of company leadership that put daughter Mariah Weyland Gratz in the role of CEO. Younger brothers Kent and Lee Weyland complete the triumvirate of second generation Weyland leadership.

Already the new leadership has staked claims on projects in Dayton, Ohio, and the outskirts of Minneapolis, Minn. And they maintain an eye on opportunities throughout the Midwest that match their interests and expertise.

Bill may have moved out of day-to-day leadership of his firm, but he remains Chief Strategy Officer. In this role he spends more time on deal making and dream making where Weyland Ventures opportunities are concerned. He also has a bit more time to spend with wife Edith and their grandchildren — likely inspiring a third generation of Weylands about the significance of loving and investing in their hometown and making the world a better place.

Learn more about Bill Weyland in these videos:

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