Aerial rendering of the back of the building looking southwest. (Courtesy John Gray)
Aerial rendering of the back of the building looking southwest. (Courtesy John Gray)
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As the recession continues on, revitalization of Downtown Louisville will likely be carried on the backs of small and medium-sized development projects. One such scheme, years in planning, will finally get off the ground, possibly by the end of the year. Developer John Gray has been planning to convert the historic Bacon-Debrovy Building on East Market Street into a mix of retail and residential, but now with financing in hand from Central Bank and plans submitted to Metro Louisville, his project is looking more like reality.

Inside the Bacon-Debrovy Lofts on East Market (Broken Sidewalk)
Inside the Bacon-Debrovy Lofts on East Market. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

Broken Sidewalk toured the building in May and spoke with Gray about his plans for the four-story cast-iron, brick, and limestone building. The oldest portion of the structure dates back before the Civil War, but the building was expanded in late 19th century. Gray is planning about 16 residential condos ranging in price from $240,000 to $300,000 above two retail spaces along Market Street. About 12 parking spots will be added in the basement, accessed by a ramp in the back of the property. Design work was handled by architect Gant Jones.

Intricate cast-iron columns currently covered along the sidewalk will be restored and the limestone facade above will be cleaned. A new cornice and pediment, long missing from the facade, will be added to bring back the structure’s former glory. Windows will be punched into the structural east party wall—a move Gray said was approved by an engineer—and several terraces on the top floor will be added. The east and north facades will be covered in vertical bands of EIFS (synthetic stucco) above a yet-to-be-determined base. Gray said he is currently looking at several materials including metal panels, hardy board, and concrete panels.

Funding from Central Bank allowed Gray to bring the building out of foreclosure and move forward with the project. He has already submitted plans to the Downtown Development Review Overlay and will meet with the committee soon. Additional loans from Metro Louisville including a facade loan and financing from the Downtown Housing Fund are also being sought.

“The first thing we want to do is get the power turned on and the building cleaned up,” Gray said. “Then we can get started with construction, or rather deconstruction at first.” While much of the wood on the ceiling and floor will require removal, Gray is salvaging it all for use inside the units. He also hopes to register the project with LEED for sustainable architecture.

Pending review, Gray believes construction could begin within a month, marking a bright spot amid a local development scene  peppered with stalled or cancelled projects.

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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

13 COMMENTS

  1. The gentrification of East Market Street marches on. Glad to hear this project is back on track!

  2. Driveway entrance seems attractive while quite functional. But it will be a challenge when covered with ice.

  3. How does this guy still get people to give him money? John Gray can’t finish what he starts. He has walked away from two of his previous developments (550 Lofts & East Market Lofts) leaving owners to finish the work he couldn’t, and remains delinquent on all his HOA fees and obligations. He is a good talker and seems like a nice guy, but will lie through his teeth and couldn’t manage a lemonade stand. BE FOREWARNED!!!!!

  4. This is wonderful news! Hopefully we’ll keep seeing other developments like this along Market street, especially since the Nucleus Research Park seems to be full steam ahead.

  5. There is no market in Louisville for condos in this price range. In fact, condo values are decreasing. Mercantile Lofts, Fleur de Lis, Clifton Lofts, Cliffview Terrace and Soho on Market are all struggling and Museum Plaza just officially went belly-up. This will become a failed development leaving the few buyers who come forward with a huge mess to manage.

  6. While it is unfortunate, I agree with “Jeff” above. As a Butchertown resident, I regularly walk the Main/Market corridor between home and the center city. Way too many condos are sitting empty. No resurgence in the economy is going to fill these up anytime soon. But, still, we need more residences in this area to ensure the sustainability of what it presently there and to entice a larger grocer to serve our needs. Webb’s is presently our only real option – and a good one, to be sure. But we need people. I’m hopeful an influx to Liberty Green with U of L students might answer part of the problem. One thing is certain – quarter million dollar condos won’t.

  7. I’m a resident of SoHo Lofts. Things are picking up over here. Last I heard, nearly half of the 38 units had been sold. It’s going to be a slow process, but we’re getting there and it’s certainly going the right direction!

  8. I’m a young person who would move to downtown if only there was affordable housing. These condos seem to be hoping for a market that doesn’t exist. Moving to downtown is still somewhat of a sacrifice, being there isn’t a proper grocery store. What’s the incentive? It should be affordable housing for those of us willing to make the move. Instead, it’s totally over-priced already.

  9. @Nat – I couldn’t agree more. I don’t know if it’s an economic thing, but I just can’t understand why (this is my perception, anyway) 95% of the development/redevelopment projects in the downtown area are being built as luxury condominiums. We will never see the creation of a vibrant downtown community if the majority of Louisville residents can’t afford to live there. If students and young professionals are ever going to be interested in living downtown, there has to be a sufficient quantity of market rate apartments and lofts available to them. If that is ever made a reality, amenities like grocery stores will move into downtown to satisfy the demand.

  10. I think its great that we see these projects being announced. Great news that they are renovating not destroying the building. With that said, I don’t understand why the developers have not provided balconies for each unit. In Amerserdam its required of every new residential unit and it helps sell the housing. People want fresh air, they want to put plants on the porch and they want to be greener by cooling the building without a/c all the time. Waterfront Plaza had only a few token balconies and everyone wanted those units. So they went back and started adding balconies and eventually they had buyers for nearly everyone. The museum plaza fiasco could not persuade potential buyers that you don’t need a balcony and instead rely on stale of ac. I also think they should have thought more about the roof and added in outdoor space–with a garden, a pond, table tennis, tables and chairs. These are the things that local government should be allocating. Those that do not read history and learn from its mistakes are dommed to repeat them. Mr. Gray you are a nice guy but where is the green?

  11. @Z – Good news for Soho on Mkt, then, but I’m not sure that’s the case with the other four developments I mentioned, and for the sake of brevity, I deleted my sentence about the condo developments that have recently auctioned units off: Audubon Woods and Waterfront Park Place. And not sure where the condo next to the Glenview on 42 is in this scheme.

  12. Still not sure why we don’t see more apartments going in downtown. I hope the Whiskey Row Lofts are working out okay, and I have to think that they will. People are reluctant to buy anything right now and I am sure condos aren’t the easiest things in which to secure financing. Apartments are affordable and a great way to get the critical masses to move downtown.

    Just glad this building will at least get some TLC if nothing else.

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