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With just over two months left before developer Todd Blue can legally destroy the strip of buildings at First and Main streets (known as Whiskey Row), Louisville Metro Government is seeking a buyer for the structures. (For more on Whiskey Row, click here)
Blue owns the strip, but has said he is willing to sell them to someone who wants to save either the facades or the entire buildings, as many preservationists have called for Blue to do.
The Courier-Journal reports that the city is now seeking buyers who are willing to take five of the seven buildings off Blue’s hands.
Alan Delisle, the corporation’s executive director, and Chris Poynter, Fischer’s spokesman, both said Thursday that the other two Iron Quarter buildings at 105 and 107 W. Main, are probably too dilapidated to attract a buyer and are not part of the sales effort. But they say the five structures that may be sold are worth salvaging in their entirety.
“If they are not sold within 90 days, he (Blue) can tear them down,” Poynter said. But he said “there are prospects” for acquiring the five buildings, although he declined to elaborate.
Delisle also wouldn’t identify prospective purchasers and called it “a big challenge” to find a buyer, “but we are making the strongest possible effort to get this done.”
It’s been reported and confirmed developer Todd Blue applied for a permit to demolish the Iron Quarter strip of buildings on the 100 block of Main Street downtown. Blue purchased the buildings in 2007.
Mayor Jerry Abramson is reportedly opposed to the buildings’ demolition.
The developer had hoped to land Humana Inc., which had been exploring an expansion, as the anchor tenant in what was proposed as a $50 million development.
But that deal never materialized, and the project never happened.
The buildings have fallen increasingly into disrepair, causing concerns about safety and their appearance, given their proximity to the $238 million arena, which is scheduled to open in November.
Several weeks ago, the city erected a fence around the structure to protect pedestrians.
[Blue's attorney Glenn] Cohen said his client has no plans to sell the buildings, adding that Blue believes the block has great redevelopment potential, particularly with the arena getting ready to open.
The attorney said Blue would like to save the buildings’ facades but was unsure whether they are salvageable.
Cohen said the developer is “exploring a number” of options for the property and has “pretty exciting” mixed-use plans that he’s not ready to share.
The cost of demolition has not been determined, Cohen said. Clearing the site would take three or four months.
Jim Host, chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority Inc., said it would be bad for the arena if Blue’s buildings remain in their current condition.
“Anything is better than (leaving the buildings) the way they are,” he said.
Last month, Broken Sidewalk reported on a study that estimated the buildings could be salvaged for about 3 million dollars total.
The report concludes that the Iron Quarter buildings could potentially be saved despite their level of decay but admits that the economics will have to be evaluated by Cobalt Ventures. Three cost estimates for various stabilization options are included in the report to understand the what stabilization would require:
- Structural stabilization for all facades ($990,000)
- Providing a new roof for the structures ($563,000)
- Structural stabilization and a new roof ($1,455,000)
These numbers are rough and might seem high, but it’s important to remember this small investment today could pay off not only in public safety but in future investment. The value of over half a block of buildings adjacent to the arena is far greater.
The options include stabilization techniques that do not require crews to enter the buildings so as to avoid current structural issues and could safely extend the buildings life by five years while the economy improves and a new plan is put in place for the property.
Known in the preservation community as “mothballing” a historic building, the process is a good way to save unused buildings from collapse or severe decay. One proposed facade stabilization technique in the report involves braces that would buttress the building, extending diagonally from the facade to ground level and allowing sidewalk access underneath.
In the end, however, Cobalt Ventures must make the decision to stabilize the Iron Quarter buildings. Todd Blue notes that the DDC study is preliminary and wasn’t conducted by Cobalt Ventures. He says he personally doesn’t know the condition of the buildings and doesn’t want to undertake any effort that might result in a potential collapse.