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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.

Rendering of Kindred's proposed expansion. (Courtesy Kindred)
Rendering of Kindred’s proposed expansion. (Courtesy Kindred)

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.

Theater Square just before demolition began. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)
Theater Square just before demolition began. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

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.

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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

7 COMMENTS

  1. Did they save the BBC Beer Glass sign, before ripping into that building? If so, where is it? If not, why?

  2. I spent about 3 years of my life hanging out there about every day after school between 94 and 97. They just basically destroyed a piece of my childhood…. So I am a little sad. But I am glad to see progress occurring in downtown Louisville, a place where any discernible progress has been lacking for many years.

  3. I wish people would figure it what they really want in Louisville. One week we hear people screaming that they want green space and trees in or near the downtown area, the next week we hear people saying they want buildings right to the curb everywhere! Which is it folks? Kindred is trying to create a relaxing atmosphere both for their employees and the general public in the area it people don’t like it and want buildings built straight up to the curbs for a urban feel. If kindred was doing this I’m sure we would also hear people complaining that they want the green space. Look at the bright side folks, it’s not going to be a parking lot!

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