The epicenter of West Main Street is moving a little farther west, and with it Louisville’s Ninth Street Divide is slowly becoming less of a psychological barrier as development follows. Nearly a decade ago during the boom years surrounding Museum Plaza, the blocks of West Main past Seventh Street were the new frontier. The ill-fated skyscraper’s entry at Fort Nelson Park would have firmly supplanted Fifth and Main as the current hub of activity along the street.
That minor two-block shift—a mere 1,000 feet—would have had ripple effects in surrounding blocks, particularly the block between between Eighth Street and Ninth Street where the last boarded up buildings in the historic stretch were on the market following another failed mixed-use development.
Building by building, however, West Main crept slowly westward, first with the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory (and the Glassworks Building that backs up to it from Market Street) and then with the 21c Museum Hotel and Frazier History Museum. Indeed, today Serkan Ozkaya’s golden David (inspired by Michelangelo) statue stands watch over Seventh and Main, casually glancing westward from atop a large podium. The critical foot traffic was in place and key anchors were casting the area as an architecturally rich, hip part of town.
Fast forward to today, and the next key piece of the puzzle is falling in shape. A series of four, long-decaying, cast-iron-and-masonry warehouses—the same bunch that have been for sale all these years—will undergo a $20 million renovation to convert them into a mix of office and retail space, largely “completing” West Main up to the doorstep of the Ninth Street Divide.
C&P Real Estate plans to join the four warehouses at 811–817 West Main Street into one contiguous building, according to a report by Insider Louisville’s Stephen George. The investment group, headed by Dominick Pagano, purchased the collection of buildings, which appear as two distinct elements from the street, from Paul and Carolan Bariteau’s Forte Development in 2012 for $1.5 million, according to Business First, and plans are now ready to move forward.
The ground floor of the structures will include about 8,000 square feet of sidewalk-level retail space, according to a report by Sheldon Shafer in the Courier-Journal. Above, three-floors of office space encompassing roughly 90,000 square feet are planned. Most dramatically, the project will be crowned by a 7,000-square-foot rooftop bar and restaurant overlooking the Ohio River—giving truth to the painted revelers that have filled the building’s upper floor boarded up windows for years. The overall project totals 105,000 square feet.
The design team is led by Cash Moter of Louisville-based Joseph & Joseph Architects, which has a reputation for working on historic buildings including the Michter’s distillery on the same block. Part of the funding for the project is expected to come from historic tax credits. Inside, the buildings will embrace a 19th century industrial aesthetic with salvaged wood floors and exposed brick walls. Renderings show dramatic archways and a central atrium opening up the space.
Construction work will predominantly take place on the inside of the structures over the next 18 to 24 months, with some preliminary work already underway. Tyler Smith of PRG Investments is handling marketing and leasing for the project.
The development is bookended by a number of other high-profile projects recently completed or in the works on the block. To the east, the new Michter’s Distillery anchors the old Fort Nelson Building. Next door, the headquarters and research library of the Sons of the American Revolution meticulously restored the Fulton-Conway Building.
To the west, C&P owns another building on the block—819 West Main—that’s already been converted into offices. Next to that is the Frazier History Museum—and another expansion is in the works. Back in 2009 we reported that the museum planned to expand into a slender missing tooth—just 19 feet wide—next door to the museum. Today, thanks to a partnership with the Kentucky Distillers Association, those plans are finally coming into focus. The museum now also owns two additional buildings just east of the vacant lot that will increase the scope of the expansion. Eventually, the Frazier will become the first stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
And west of Ninth, there’s more. The Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company just opened its facility on 10th Street north of Main. Falls City Beer and the Old 502 Winery are also housed in a warehouse on 10th Street just south of Main. Most importantly, an expansion to Waterfront Park is in the works, along with an extension of River Road and a study to completely remove the Ninth Street Interchange outright. Ten years ago these notions of development at and past Ninth Street were just dreams, but today the waves of development are pushing westward.