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One of Downtown Louisville‘s finest examples of Beaux Arts industrial architecture will be converted to mini-storage, if a rezoning currently in the works goes through. By next winter, the Kurfees Paint building on the corner of Brook Street and East Market Street could house 726 mini-storage units, according to the SpareFoot Storage Beat. Louisville-based Column Group Real Estate plans to purchase the 125,000-square-foot concrete building for $3.2 million pending the rezoning, which is expected to go through by next March.

Located at 201 East Market Street, the circa-1915 structure will house 66,000 square feet of storage space, some of it underground. The $2.2 million conversion would be built with the help of historic tax credits. The Joseph & Joseph–designed building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, likely to make it more attractive to a potential developer. (We profiled the building and its history when it first hit the market in 2010.) Exact plans won’t be cemented until that rezoning goes through, but the development could also include ground floor retail and a top floor of about 20 apartments.

The building's interior retains its industrial aesthetic. (Courtesy NRHP)
The building’s interior retains its industrial aesthetic. (Courtesy NRHP)

While mini-storage isn’t a very sexy use for such an architecturally significant building in the heart of Downtown, developer Aaron Willis told Broken Sidewalk the storage units allow flexibility in terms of how the building can be used. “Self storage units are very flexible and you can always take them apart if a retail user wanted the ground floor,” Willis said. “We are still considering all options, but until we have a reasonable retail user we’ll continue with a 100 percent storage plan.”

“I’m very skeptical we can find a retail user that will like the building and that we’ll like,” he continued. “They’ll have to be a pretty strong national or local retail user. We’re not willing to sink a million into a restaurant retrofit if they might go out of business.”

Willis is working with historic tax experts Ed Eiche and Bill Weyland of City Properties Group to design the building’s renovation, although no contracts have yet been signed. Plans were already presented to the neighborhood and to the city, and Willis said there was not much response since he is not altering the building’s exterior. He said he planned on restoring the facade and potentially installing new energy-efficient windows. He said the building’s basement extends beneath the sidewalks, which are in need of replacement, so new sidewalks would be part of the project as well. The building’s front facade has been altered to include a more streamlined Art Deco aesthetic along the sidewalk.

The building's original Beaux Arts facade and canopy along East Market Street. (Courtesy NRHP)
The building’s original Beaux Arts facade and canopy along East Market Street. (Courtesy NRHP)

Willis told SpareFoot he got the idea for the project after seeing a mini-storage warehouse in Philly. “The beautiful thing is it’s almost right in the middle of downtown. There is very limited competition around us, with a lot of multifamily development going on downtown,” Willis told SpareFoot. We hope the project moves forward with its retail and residential components intact for just that reason: this project is almost right in the middle of Downtown.

If the rezoning happens, construction could begin next Spring. If the building is not rezoned, Willis won’t purchase the property and it would likely be up to another developer to propose a renovation plan at the Kurfees Paint building. Given the building has been vacant for four years, any signs of life

The building's East Market Street facade today. (Courtesy NRHP)
The building’s East Market Street facade today. (Courtesy NRHP)

Here’s an architectural description of the building from files submitted in 200 to the National Register of Historic Places:

The Kurfees Paint Company Building is a four story brick building with stone base and accents. The main decorative facade is oriented to the south along Market Street. The south facade served as the historic entry for the office portion of the facility. The south facade served as the formal entry to the office portion of the building, while the industrial functions of the building are served by the north facade and northern portion of the east and west facades.

(Courtesy NHRP)
(Courtesy NHRP)

The approximately 15′ x 15′ concrete structural bays provide the framework for the elevations on the exterior. This divides the south and north elevations into seven bays, three in the 1914 portion of the building and four in the 1928 addition. The east and west elevations present themselves with 14 bays.

As the formal entry to the office portion of the building and the Market Street elevation, the south facade is the most ornate. This entry to the building is located in the center of the original portion of the south facade and is flanked by two display windows at the grade level. Each element is framed by stone and brick square pilasters. The pilasters are capped by a cut stone capital bearing a geometric pattern. The capitals are topped with a 4’9″ horizontally-layered stone and brick entablature, the blocking course (composed of brick) is accented by stone dentils. Together this first floor creates a base for the building in a traditional Beaux Arts manner. The formal south facade turns the comers approximately 15ft toward the north on both the east and west facades. The base of the south facade is 16′ 11″ tall. Originally a steel-framed stamped galvanized iron-covered canopy with a scalloped edge covered the entrance. Each bay on the first floor, except for the entry, where display windows originally addressed the street with 2′ 0″ stamped cast iron base, 7′ 0″ polished plate glass, and topped with a 3′ 0″ sheet prism glass.

Rendering of the original Kurfees Paint building circa 1928 before it was expanded. (UL Photographic Archives - Reference URL)
Rendering of the original Kurfees Paint building circa 1915 before it was expanded. (UL Photographic Archives – Reference)

The mid-section of the south facade continues the same seven bays, as established by the structure and first floor, but the composition is divided into a 3-1-3 pattern. The first three bays are set up by the original building’s bays, flanked by decorative square pilasters on either end. The eastern-most three bays mimic the original building. The center bay, it is assumed, created a center line for the symmetry of the overall facade. A visually-continuous cut stone string course travels up and down each of the 3-story pilasters and across the window bays at the top of the fifth floor. The windows on the second level are steel double-hung painted windows. The windows on levels three and four are steel casement windows with pivoting sashes set in the center of each window.

The facade is capped with an entablature of stone which tops the shallow arched parapet. The arches correspond to the rhythm set up by the 3-1-3 pattern of floors 2-4. In Beaux Arts style each pilaster terminates in a decorative element. In this case, the pilasters terminate in a distinctive cut stone medallion which is a more decorative version of the first-floor pilaster capitals.

The west elevation is much less decorative but was intended to be an exterior face, as opposed to the north and east elevations which are entirely utilitarian. Again, the structural column grid is expressed in the rhythm of the elevation. The first floor is simply a brick fa<;ade with steel casement windows raised to approximately 9’0″ above the sidewalk level. This level is topped with a simplified portion of the stone entablature which continues from the south elevation. The upper 3 stories are composed of the vertical concrete frame left exposed, steel casement windows spanning between each column, and brick covering the concrete slabs at each floor level. This elevation is capped with a simplified squared-off parapet decorated with diamond-shaped cut-stone medallions at the top of each structural column. The one bay which is differs on this elevation is the centrally located elevator bay. This bay is expressed as brick with “punched hole” vertical window, and a further raised parapet and a stone penthouse above. Originally the northernmost portion of the first floor was covered with a canopy over the sidewalk. This served as the load area for the industrial portion of the building.

The north elevation is purely a utilitarian elevation with the steel-reinforced concrete structural grid exposed in both vertical and horizontal directions. Between the concrete grid is brick infill and a combination of single-hung and casement windows filling each opening, with no particular hierarchy or differentiation.

The east elevation, similar to the north, was purely a utilitarian elevation with the concrete structural grid exposed in both the vertical and horizontal direction. Between the concrete grid is brick infill and a combination of single-hung and casement windows filling each opening with no particular hierarchy or differentiation. Windows pierce each of the grid openings except where an adjacent building once stood. The outline of the previous neighboring building is still evident on this elevation. The brick in these locations is rough due to being laid against an existing building’s exterior wall. This brick is roughly laid and is missing most of the mortar and was never intended to be exposed to the elements.

The concrete structural grid is expressed on the exterior facades of the building. The concrete columns are sheathed with a stone and brick veneer at the corners, base and top of the build exterior. The concrete structure was left exposed in the remaining areas of the building.

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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

1 COMMENT

  1. My wife and I have always really liked this building. But mini-storage? Meh. I suppose at least it is a use and I agree that it is modular, undestructive, and easily reversible. But I guess the underwhelming factor stems mostly from the notion that this is anti-density if you think about it. It would have some appeal to downtown newcomers who want/need the storage ability they may have given up with an urban move, sure. And with all the development, it’s pretty doubtful that residential is viable. And I also understand the developer’s refusal to sink a lot of money in what might be a potential flagship restaurant or an expensively-tailored flop. But the quote seems to suggest that he’ll be overly picky concerning a business tenant.

    I don’t know…I just look at that b&w postcard picture (admittedly with billowing black smoke, which is always worth a chuckle even though the obvious intent was a signal of progress) with the bustle, the density, the streetcar, delivery trucks, obvious commerce. And how far we’ve come: a half-hearted, fearfully-conservative, shoulder-shrug-of-a-pitch to make a bunch of storage units for the creative class’s crap?

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