Mid-November Demo at D & W Silks (Photo by Diane Deaton-Street)
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Demolition has been going on for some time now on East Main Street at the former D & W Silks building where asymmetric 18-story towers are eventually planned by Jefferson Development Group. The destruction has continued steadily and little of the structure remains. There’s a salvage operation going on and old bricks are being stacked on pallets for salvage along with massive wooden timbers and various steel components. When demolition started, we didn’t have many details, but we now have a clearer picture of what’s going on.

Mid-November Demo at D & W Silks (Photo by Diane Deaton-Street)
Mid-November Demo at Riney Bedding. (Diane Deaton-Street)

We originally thought it strange that these two structures never had an intent to demolish sign posted even though they sit in the Phoenix Hill National Register District. It turns out that the City had deemed them non-contributing to the historic fabric of the area due to alterations and “apparent structural instability.” Preservationists had wondered why Louisville is so loose with its preservation standards and were caught unaware of the pending demolitions.

Plans filed with the city call for a gross 1.26 million square feet of new space for the 2 acre site. Included in the $150 million project is a 1,200 spot, partially underground parking garage with 22,000 square feet of retail. Above, 680,000 square feet of new office space in ten and twelve story towers would rise from a 9,000 square foot park on top of the garage for a total height of 16- to 18-stories. Shortly after we wrote about the demolition beginning, the C-J got an interview (now offline) with the developer, Jefferson Development Group:

[Robert Webber, president of Jefferson Development Group,] said that construction of new office space downtown has been almost non-existent in recent years, leaving companies that want 20,000 square feet or more of top quality space in the central business district with very limited opportunities.

Jeff Dreher, an office broker with Commercial Kentucky, which tracks local office usage, said downtown’s Class A, or best quality office space was 7.9 percent vacant as of Sept. 30, one of the lowest vacancy rates in years.

Even with the suburban vacancy rate, in comparison, at 18.9 percent, Dreher said the downtown market has “reached the threshold” where a lot of experts think new construction makes sense. “If the economy keeps coming back, we will need something” in the way of new downtown office space soon, he said.

Webber said, however, that with commercial lending tight, the partners probably need to have at least 60 percent of any new office space leased, before being able to get a construction loan for that space. Financing, he said, “will be difficult. No question.”

In the near-term, the site is likely to be converted into a parking lot. According to documents filed with the City, Jefferson Development moved up the demolition date, a move the C-J said is to show investors they’re serious about construction, and pushed back the time frame to begin construction, likely to provide time for the economy to recover and for tenants to be found. Jefferson Development Group now has until the end of 2011 to begin new construction on the site, but environmental and archaeological studies must be complete by the end of 2010.

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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

8 COMMENTS

  1. Ryan, I double checked and the two structures are listed in the Phoenix Hill National Register District, not a local landmark district. As I understand it, if the structures had been declared as "contributing" to the area, Indent to Demolish signs would have been required to advertise the demolition of a building over 65 years old. Since they were declared non-contributing, no sign was necessary.

  2. I’m confused. Pheonix Hill is not a local Landmarks district. I own property and have done renovations/construction in the neighborhood, there is no local review. And when they were attempting to become a Preservation district, this site wouldn’t have been a part of their district (despite debating with the East Market/Main owners as to whether they should be included, every proposed boundary I saw included no land west of I-65).

    Or are you talking about some other form of preservation district?

  3. I find it very hard to believe that these buildings could be deemed non contributing…

  4. Living in an 1880’s Butchertown home, I am all for preservation. However, I run past these buildings every morning and they were basically just brick shells that didn’t add to the neighborhood. The architecture wasn’t really notable either. I’m hopeful that the new structure will add even more of that “urban” feel that most downtown residents seem to want. IE shops, cofee shops, restaurants that are walkable… Also, the plans look like a nice compliment to Fleur de Lis, which turned out quite nice ( I think…)

  5. I also am hopeful and support the Jefferson Development proposal. The buildings were shells but from what I could see in very good shape which is supported by how long it is taking them to raze the structures. My comment refers to the process of razing the buildings and I find it hard to believe that these buildings could have been deemed non-contributing. They both were historic, intact and convertible. I am also concerned about how long a parking lot (missing teeth) is going to be there.

  6. Ahh, I didn’t realize that there was that requirement in the National Register Districts. I looked up the boundaries for the District, it shouldn’t really be called Phoenix Hill, it’s really a very large portion of East Downtown plus Phoenix Hill. I don’t tear buildings down, so never encountered this, use to dealing with Landmarks. Thanks for the information 😉

  7. I, too, am concerned about how long this sight may remain a parking lot. It will be a shame if action isn't taken soon to develop it since the location is great! It would have been nice if the buildings could have been incorporated into the plan since they had that urban feel (ie loft space or urban retail), but I guess they don't really match the feel of the planned buildings. I suppose new buildings beat empty old buildings even though I hate to see old torn down. So many old Butchertown bldgs are gone…a real shame!

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