Work underway to grow Paroquet Springs facility

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By Alex Wimsatt

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - More than a year and a half after the Shepherdsville-Bullitt County Tourist and Convention Commission first envisioned a grand patio adorning the front of Paroquet Springs Conference Center their vision has finally come to fruition. 

Having entered into an agreement with Brooks contractor EH Construction, the commission recently broke ground on an elaborate garden patio, which is expected to be completed by this spring, weather permitting. 

Conference Center director Vicki Downing, who has supported the project since its inception, said the long awaited addition would be an asset, not only to the conference center, but to the people of Bullitt County.

"This expansion will make our conference center stand out and it will certainly be something all Bullitt Countians can be proud of," Downing said. 

Louisville architect Scott Kremer said the ambitious project would be "one of a kind," adding that its aesthetic beauty would only be enhanced by its functionality. 

Set to begin hosting events by the end of spring, depending on the construction timeline, the $307,000 garden patio will surround the northwest corner of the conference center just outside the McDowell Ballroom.

As the tourist and convention commission plans to double the size of the McDowell Ballroom during the next phase of the conference center's expansion in the coming years, the patio will be accessed through the ballroom.

The palatial patio of geometrically-patterned stone will seat 275 guests theater style and feature decorative light fixtures and water elements. 

Stone walls and ornamental landscaping will enclose the patio to create an intimate setting and provide privacy while also serving as a buffer from outside activity.

Downing said she was confident the new patio and garden area would greatly enhance the facility and generate more business. 

After all, that was the idea from the beginning. 

The evolution of the project began in 2010 when commissioner Tom Kelly first advocated for the expansion of the McDowell Ballroom. 

In 2011 Downing proposed building a small garden outside the ballroom to offer customers a much needed outdoor venue for break-out sessions and small events.

As the year progressed the idea of a small garden became grander and the commission opted for a patio and garden area that could accommodate fairly large events. 

The commission opted to hold off on the McDowell Ballroom expansion project, which carried a significantly higher price tag than the patio, and they sought Louisville-based Studio Kremer Architects to draft the preliminary plans. 

Though the McDowell Ballroom expansion project has been set on the back burner for the time being, the commission has no intention of abandoning the project.

As a matter of fact, when utility lines are moved to make way for the patio they will be laid to the side of the conference center for the McDowell Ballroom addition.

Downing said she was told the conference center and the McDowell Ballroom would be out of commission for brief periods during construction, but she has yet to speak with the contractor as to when that might be. 

She did say however that the conference center and the McDowell Ballroom would be closed for only a matter of days at the most, adding that neither the facility nor the ballroom would be closed at the same time.

Besides that, Downing said the only other inconvenience is that the conference center will lose the eight parking spaces directly in front of the facility. 

As for when the patio and garden area will be complete, Downing said the contractor will have 120 days from the time the contracts are signed to complete the project.