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Back in December, we looked at a plan by Louisville developers Underhill Associates to redo the Louisville Armory, aka the Gardens, into a mix of apartments and retail space. (The Underhills are the developers behind projects like Westport Village and the in-progress Germantown Mill Lofts.) At the time, the Underhills were reported to be the only respondent to the city’s Request for Proposals (RFP) for the property on Muhammad Ali Boulevard between Armory Place and Sixth Street, and the city was keeping quiet on plans for the site. After months of silence, we now know the plan is dead.

The Courier-Journal‘s Sheldon Shafer reported in late March that the city rejected the Underhill’s proposal. That plan had called for reconstructing the building’s interior into a mix of 70 apartments, 10,000 square feet of retail, a walking track, and a history museum at the famed historic site. According to Shafer:

The main flaw was that the Underhill plan didn’t include enough public uses, or didn’t rise “to the level of public engagement that we thought was necessary” in a structure with so much history and that is a “community treasure,” said Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, chief of Louisville Forward, Mayor Greg Fischer’s lead agency on urban development matters.

With the redevelopment project dead, there’s no telling how long the facility will remain vacant—no one else is in talks to redevelop the site. Currently, the Armory is used for storage, decaying slowly, and costing the city around $20,000 annually.

Colin Underhill, partner at UA, told the C-J, “in the end, we couldn’t come up with plans in accordance with what the city wanted and that were financially feasible. We mutually agreed to move on.”

We asked Broken Sidewalk readers what they wanted to see at the old Armory site and results ranged from a food market, a permanent music venue, to a movie theater. Vote for your favorite reuse ideas below (choose up to three). Polls close next Wednesday, April 15 at midnight.

[total-poll id=”20604″]
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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

20 COMMENTS

  1. You forgot to include the ‘Bring the NBA to Louisville’ idea, which is to make this the headquarters and practice facility for an NBA team. Still the best idea IMHO, and would in fact maintain the gardens as pretty much is originally intended use, and allow ‘public use’.

  2. I think this would be a great building for a big central market/farmers market/food hall, like the Public Market in Seattle or the Findley Market in Cincinnati. Throw in some apartments in the upper stories, and maybe even a small entertainment venue/stage for after-hour events, and I think you would have a great mixed use anchor for what is now essentially the western edge of Downtown (everything further west is parking lots).

  3. Just think of what Louisville is missing…. A city market. It would be an instant success. Just think, bring in fresh food from around kentucky and not to mention the world (lucky for us we have a UPS worldport on our doorstep) imagine lobster caught that morning in Maine sold that afternoon in Louisville. Or fresh seafood from Japan. I’m surprised Louisville hasn’t tried to capitalize on this yet.

  4. I agree Reid. The space is so big, I think there could even be room for food production. Imagine a huge hydroponics facility churning out fresh fish and produce year round.

  5. Haymarket 2.0 stalls for farmers, small restaurants similar to food trucks, indoor agriculture/gardens, presentation hall that could be rented out.

  6. Speaking of aquariums, KY & Louisville should build a state-of-the-art aquarium/museum of Louisville’s history on Shippingport island, with a monumental “statue of liberty-type” statue at the tip of the island infront of the 14th street bridge. Both would be a HUGE tourist desination. Also, linking that with the existing Falls of the ohio state park and the future phase 4 of waterfront park with a pedestrian walkway across the 14th street bridge, would make so much sense.

  7. It was recently reported that the Kentucky International Convention Center is going to close for two years to accommodate needed renovations. Presumably, that closure will cost downtown tens of millions in lost economic impact. Why not spend a few million dollars now to spruce up the Armory for use a temporary convention center? Dollars invested there would preserve an important building and the millions of dollars of lost downtown convention business while the main convention center is closed.

    Long-term, a food hall with some apartments and flex space for events would be ideal.

  8. Not sure what to make of the comments about converting the Gardens to a food market. Louisville had a food market. It was called the Haymarket and it was bulldozed for asphalt & office buildings.

  9. Whats your point Jeff, other to than to emphasize that Louisville has no food market?

  10. Thanks to the local, three generation, family owned Underhills for their effort. I believe they were also the only developer to respond to the City’s strong push for saving Colonial Gardens.

  11. Sean Cooper I tried to reply to you directly but I don’t think it worked. But I LOVE your aquarium idea. I’d like to further suggest that it be The Ohio River Aquarium and feature only fish from the Ohio River watershed. There are some crazy awesome fish in the Ohio and the southeast US, which includes many Ohio tributaries, is a global freshwater species diversity hotspot. Duluth, MN built an aquarium about 10 years ago called the Great Lakes Aquarium. It’s a pretty cool place and the Great Lakes are dramatically less diverse than the Ohio watershed; hey had way less fish to work with. What is currently the arena area could be utilized to build a giant circular tank with constantly moving water to simulate the main river channel and feature big fish, 4-6 feet long, that live there.

    There are so many aquariums in the world, including one right up the river in Cincinnati that is supposed to be pretty nice, but it seems they all feature the same fish. They only seem to specialize regionally if they are on a specific oceanic body of water. This would be an awesome way to highlight freshwater fish diversity and our own ecological heritage here in KY, plus could be a tourism draw for all the other 15 or so states that are in the watershed. Not to mention conservation, since we have a number of threatened and endangered species.

  12. Since the OmniGrocerie will likely be yet another piece of wishful thinking, the indoor market, with a place for farmers
    Markets to winter as well, AND the flea off fifth , and an international component along with a roller rink( which was one idea back when they expanded the convention center to create the grande canyon of third st)……..all good ideas.
    Yeah. Nobody will miss the Haymarket……
    NewClueless is the most unurban building ever!

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