Well, that was fast. In less than two weeks, the entire Theater Square complex on Fourth Street has been reduced to a pile of rubble. The complex of retail, office, and public space is being cleared to make way for Kindred Healthcare’s suburbanized headquarters expansion.
The $36 million expansion project, designed by Louisville’s K. Norman Berry Associates, was unveiled last December. Thirty two percent of the budget comes from public funds in the form of various tax incentives.
Plans call for 142,000 square feet of office space in a six-story building. On the ground floor’s single-story retail podium, 7,000 square feet has been set aside for a restaurant facing the building’s new plaza, renamed Kindred Square.
Two tipsters wrote in this week to share the above demolition photos. One noted that upon being spotted photographing the site, crews hurried to turn on an anti-dust water hose.
The new public space lacks the urban definition that was once part of Theater Square. Rather than being surrounded by buildings on all sides, Kindred Square is only fronted by retail on one. A waterfall masks a truck route to a loading dock and the southern side is open to Kindred’s enormous wraparound driveway at Broadway where the Art Deco Commonwealth Building once stood 21 stories tall.
The main criticism of the plan is that the mass of the new Kindred building is set back from Fourth Street by 80 to 105 feet. (Theater Square’s western structure was set back 100 feet.) Given that Kindred already owns a one-story structure casting a blank facade to Fifth Street immediately west of this building site and a large swath of lawn and driveway immediately south, the siting of the building could have been significantly improved.
The two-story Theater Square was not historic structure, conceived in the ’80s and built in the ’90s. It did provide an urban feeling and its simple brickwork made it a nice contextual building. It was built on the site of the five-story Berkeley Hotel building. The plaza there included trees, a fountain, and eventually the whimsical Louisville Clock by sculptor Barney Bright. That clock was removed and placed in storage this year, sitting in limbo like so many other architectural details in the city.
The Kindred expansion project is expected to be complete in 2017 and will house 500 new workers.