Having recently split with his brother and longtime business partner, Jonathan Blue has teamed up with two other young entrepreneurs who share his vision for real estate ventures and downtown development.
Blue, 38, has joined forces with investors Gant Hill and Austin Musselman to form a new partnership called Blue Venterra LLC. The three plan to pursue real estate and other projects.
Hill and Musselman, both in their 30s, have an existing real estate investment firm called Venterra LLC. They also work with City Properties Group LLC, the multifaceted real estate concern managed by Louisville developer and architect Bill Weyland.
Hill is principal broker with City Properties, and Musselman works in development and consulting.
Blue and his brother, Todd Blue, formerly were partners in the local venture capital and real estate development firm Cobalt Ventures LLC.
They recently divided their business interests, which led to Jonathan Blue creating a new venture capital firm called Blue Equity LLC. He is chairman and managing director of the company.
New firm to buy Republic Building; Blue to move publishing company there
The first order of business for Blue Venterra will be the purchase of the Republic Building, an 11-story, 55,000-square-foot structure on the northeast corner of Fifth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
Hill and Musselman bought that building in 2003 through a Venterra affiliate for $2.3 million. Blue Venterra is set to close on the property after the first of the year, according to the partners.
The purchase price is set at $2.7 million.
Blue, who has diverse holdings, plans to move the corporate headquarters of one of his companies, Cobalt Publishing LLC, to the Republic Building later this month. The company is the nation’s largest independent publisher of Spanish-language Yellow Pages directories, with a combined circulation of about 1.2 million.
Cobalt Publishing, which has 150 employees across the country, currently has its corporate headquarters in the Cobalt Marketplace building at 445 E. Market St., a former hardware store property redeveloped and still owned by Cobalt Ventures.
The publishing company, which has 20 to 30 local workers, will lease 7,200 square feet in the Republic Building, according to Blue.
Building’s occupancy at 94 percent
Blue contacted Hill and Musselman about the availability of space in the building and about the prospects for a partnership.
He said Cobalt Publishing has run out of space in its current location, and he was attracted to the Republic Building, at 427 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd., because of its proximity to the dining and entertainment options of Fourth Street Live.
The location will make it easier to recruit workers for his growing company, Blue said. “Personally, I think it’s the hottest area in the city.”
With the addition of Cobalt Publishing, the Republic Building has a 94 percent occupancy rate, according to Hill. Many of the tenants are small legal firms.
The property was about 75 percent leased when Hill and Musselman acquired it two and a half years ago.
“I’m pretty proud of the fact that we’ve added tenants in a stagnant office environment,” Musselman said.
Partners share development objectives
Following the completion of the Republic Building transaction, Blue, Hill and Musselman plan to seek other investment opportunities, and they said they don’t intend to limit their options to downtown or to real estate.
Blue said he sees the partnership as a chance for “the younger generation” to have a say in how the local community takes shape.
“I’m all about Louisville (developing) its younger people to take over this community,” he added. “We need to try to nurture that kind of base here.”
Hill agreed. “We all have similar objectives. We’re all about the same age. We all bring different things to the table.”