Demolition on Third Street Could Make Way For New St. Francis Building

Concept rendering of proposed multi-use facility on Third Street. (Courtesy Lake Flato)
Concept rendering of proposed multi-use facility on Third Street. (Courtesy Lake Flato)

St. Francis High School, located in the Beaux-Arts former YMCA building Downtown on the corner of Third Street and Broadway, has been dreaming of an expanded campus for over a decade. Since purchasing their structure in March 1999 (the school was founded in the building in 1977), St. Francis has also acquired adjacent parcels, including a two-story brick parking garage at 659 South Third Street. Following a new master plan created in 2010 by nationally-acclaimed, San Antonio-based Lake/Flato architects, St. Francis has applied to demolish the garage. Current plans call for a parking lot at the site until funds are raised to build a multipurpose arts and athletics complex.

Parking garage to be demolished. (Courtesy Tipster)
Parking garage to be demolished. (Courtesy Tipster)

The parking garage, one of the oldest in the city, includes first floor retail space with one level of parking above accessed via a brick-paved ramp. There has been no retail in the building for many years and the facade has been covered with whimsical black-and-white murals depicting city life in Louisville (see below). The demolition is being stayed for the standard 30 days because of the building’s age.

A concept plan designed by Lake/Flato shows a large-multipurpose building including a gymnasium taking the garage’s place. Architect Matt Morris, partner at Lake/Flato, said the gym space can be easily converted to handle large-scale arts festivals and other uses. “We’re strong believers in buildings taking on more than one purpose,” he said over the phone today. Plans also include infilling an existing courtyard with a black-box theater and production space and retrofitting the circa 1913 YMCA building. A new outdoor courtyard would be created off Third Street accessed via a dramatic entry stair in the new structure.

According to Lake/Flato’s web site:

Lake/Flato was hired to analyze the school’s existing facilities and develop a master plan to address issues with their existing building and propose strategies for significantly increasing arts and athletics spaces.

One goal that quickly surfaced was that any addition or renovation would need to both preserve and sustain the relative and collegiate energy that currently exists within the school.

A public meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, August 15 at 8:30 a.m. at the Metro Development Center, 444 South Fifth Street, Conference Room 101 to review the demolition, parking plans, and proposed new building. Officials from St. Francis could not be reached by press time.

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden is a writer and architectural designer living in Brooklyn. After graduating from the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, Branden practiced architecture in Louisville where he worked on several large LEED Certified buildings. Branden is the senior web editor at The Architect’s Newspaper, where he covers architecture, design, and urbanism. He has also written about design for Designers & Books, sustainability for Inhabitat, and architecture for the American Institute of Architects. He founded Broken Sidewalk in 2007, an online collaborative promoting architecture and urbanism in Louisville, Kentucky and the Midwest.


  1. As a St. Francis High School grad (class of ’94), I’m not sure what to make of this. On the one hand, I’m all for the school expanding and updating, but I also think that original architecture in Louisville is worth preserving. I had no idea that the parking garage originally held retail space. Thanks for the post, will be reposting on State of the Commonwealth tomorrow.

  2. Why couldn’t they buy the adjacent Mcdonalds? Bring some infill to Broadway, keep the garage for parking and renovate the old retail spaces. I’m worried this may become (due to economic conditions) another case of a historic structure being torn down for a building that never gets built.

  3. I agree with Porter. In the age of sustainability and “smart growth” demolition of a solid structure is waste, when infill would fulfill not only expansion needs but improve the ambience of the area. Broadway is a prime example of how a wonderful boulevard has been ravaged over the years–grand structures removed en masse to accomodate highway traffic (next door to JCTCS), parking lots (3rd and Broadway SW corner and virtually the entire block between 4th and 5th on the south side). I appreciate the expansion needs of our institutions, but we need to encourage a culture where conservation of current structures through re-use and “filling in the blanks” is a signature of corporate responsibility.

  4. You folks above are right on target. Why does it seem like no one is listening? Let’s welcome the expansion of St. Francis in our urban core, but you’re right, this growth does not seem very “smart.”

  5. Bryan, no one appears to be listening because a small cadre of developers control this market–mainly because we haven’t been paying attention and speaking up. Also, The extended reign of Le Roi Jerry, helped establish a near feudal state of affairs in Louisville. Our system is dysfunctional. However, the realities of a changing economy may work to our advantage. There are too many of us who feel similarly about urban revitalization not to have an impact eventually. Even people who don’t support preservation don’t like patronage, waste, inequity, lack of jobs, decaying neighborhoods. We need to seize every opportunity to voice our vision, here on Broken Sidewalk, through letters to the Courier Journal, emails and call to the Mayor an ALL of Metro Council. Why not drop a note to St Francis? I know that development of any type is complex, but the only way to shift the paradigm is to start making noise and sustain the noise—even when it is clear the immediate battle will be lost. That is what is so great about Broken Sidewalk. By illustrating what was, is and can be, it helps change the conversation.

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