Arctic Building Complex
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The Ice House Lofts announced well over a year ago on East Main Street will be moving ahead despite the slow economy. Plans have been slightly altered, however, to reflect the economic realities of the time; instead of selling lofts and condos, the project will be marketed as apartments. Work involves converting the old Arctic Building into 52 apartments with retail along Main Street. The entire development is estimated to cost around $7 million.

Possible view from the 6th or 7th floor
Mockup of the view from the 6th or 7th floor—does not represent what may be built. (Broken Sidewalk)

The project has been slow to start but has a complicated history. David Barhorst, developer of the Bycks Lofts on Fourth Street, and David Steinbrecher, owner of Derek Engineering purchased the building in 2007 for around $2 million and secured financing from PRP Bank, now merged with Forcht Bank. Work was expected to begin last year, but the group was approached by an out-of-town developer who purchased a one-year option on the property for a possible new Humana tower. Under that plan, the building would have been demolished. With the Humana expansion still in limbo, Barhorst says the Ice House Lofts are going ahead.

The delay could have been a blessing in disguise as it gave the developers time to respond to the market collapse and allowed time for readjustment of the development plan. The seven-story, 62,000 square foot building will include 21 studio lofts in the old ice-making factory on Washington Street. Those units will contain around 500 square feet each. The remainder of the units will be in the ice-storage tower on Main Street and range from 720 to 840 square feet. Each tower apartment will have large expanses of glass and its own balcony.

Ice House Lofts isn’t the first project to switch from condos to apartments. Recently, the Franklin Flats in Butchertown went ‘nondo’ and leased all three of its units in a matter of hours. The Whiskey Row Lofts, two blocks west of the Ice House, is also taking the apartments-for-slow-economic-times approach. This is good news for many young professionals and other would-be downtown dwellers who have waited without result for lower price condos to hit the downtown market.

Apartments at the Ice House Lofts will average $700 to $800 a month, with the top floor units will likely lease for $1150 per month (it’s the views, and they are quite nice). While each of the 52 units will have their own parking spot, Barhorst says individual bike lockers will also be provided as a selling point for the project. With its proximity to Waterfront Park and many city amenities, this represents the first project in Downtown to promote alternative transportation (Okay, the Whitestone Condos might give you an electric car, but this is truly alternative).

The Arctic Building was built in 1920 and is constructed of solid concrete, then lined in four inches of cork, and then topped off with a few more inches of concrete. The building was essentially a giant freezer, so, as you can imagine, it’s well insulated. Barhorst predicts energy costs in the units will be pretty low as a result. Large windows will be inserted into the brick veneer facade and balconies will offer views up and down Main Street. The decorative masonry on the exterior will remain, but the building will end up with a lot of glass once complete.

Overall, the Ice House project will fill a niche in downtown housing previously unmet: smaller, more affordable units. The one-story portion of the building along Main Street won’t be turned residential as the original plan called for, but will be leased as office space and saved for a possible Phase II of the project. Barhorst said that might include tearing out the loading dock and building a taller building to fill in one of Main Street’s “missing teeth,” but that is a long way down the road.

For now, 52 apartments with an industrial chic feel above sidewalk retail space sounds like the right move for East Main Street. The more people on the ground in a neighborhood, the easier it is for local business to thrive, so we may see a second East Main resurgence after all.

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Branden Klayko

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

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