The most talked about condo project in town has become less of a mystery as the Broken Sidewalk goes inside to see just what developers have in store for the historic Marcus Lindsey Memorial M. E. Church. Last we knew, retail plans had fallen through and the 10,000 square foot property was back on the market listed around $900,000. Now, with the blessing of the Butchertown neighborhood review, developers Pip Pullen and Susan Swope are moving the project forward with potentially 4 or 5 units in the building.
We learned the current church building was actually built in phases. The oldest portion sits directly east of the more articulated main sanctuary. It becomes evident there was a later addition as the eastern portion displays more austere detailing and simpler roof lines. A stone above the main entrance reads 1899, but the original half is believed to be 11 or 12 years older. The church was also the original home to the Wesley House in 1909 before it moved one block north in Butchertown and finally to Preston Highway. As you can see in the above view, the church also at one point had a steeple on the corner of Main Street and Shelby Street. It’s long gone now, and little is known of its disappearance.
Two windows that had previously disappeared have now been located, however. The small stained glass windows are the only other missing portion of the building and will replace the plywood currently holding their place on the Shelby Street facade.
The concept for converting the church to condos was born of a similar project the developers experienced in London. Pip Pullen was amazed by the intricacy and quality of the spaces an abandoned church offered and felt he could recreate the effect in Louisville. To bring the project to reality, Pullen and Swope enlisted Jeff Rawlins of Architectural Artisans to craft the building’s large volumes into intricate yet respectful residential spaces.
The main design concept is to reuse as much of the church as possible and to add contemporary additions that are subtle and grounded. The renovation is not meant to overwhelm the original architecture. Pullen wants the person on the sidewalk to “see a church, but know its not a church.” Along Main Street, outdoor private spaces for the condos could be tucked behind simple knee walls or glass doors could lead to each unit. Plans are still in the schematic phase and new ideas for the building are constantly emerging.
The main sanctuary will likely contain 2 or 3 units. The space is so grand, Pullen wants several people to call it home as opposed to one giant condo, but is open to whatever might come along, be it one or several condos or even retail space. In the eastern half of the church, another condo and an apartment will each have their own entrances from the street. The building lends itself to a sort of townhouse feel as each new residence will have its own private entrance. Above all, the team wants to make this a quality project with ‘cool’ and modern residences. Pip and Susan believe so much in the idea, they plan to call the finished project home themselves.
Parking has always been a major concern for the property, especially since it fills up its entire site. A creative solution allows for four spots to be created inside the eastern half of the structure. A door will be installed directly below two windows (without stained glass) utilizing the existing Gothic arches to blend with the historic facade. Rawlins noted this was an opportunity to unobtrusively add interest to the building with the creative door. This proves to be a most elegant solution for incorporating parking into the project.
Additional space will be created in the church by constructing new lofted areas in the soaring spaces. Rawlins wants to ensure that the massive stained glass windows in the main sanctuary are enjoyed to their full potential and has devised a method to to create a mezzanine pulled away from the exterior walls. This allows dramatic ceiling heights and minimal alteration of the original architecture.
Overall, it takes a little creativity to imagine such an out-of-the-box project, but Pullen, Swope, and Rawlins appear to have a great solution in mind. Considering the church was offered for free to a builder several years ago and rejected, filling up an abandoned building on the border of two of Louisville’s most creative neighborhoods (Butchertown and the East Village) is sure to stabilize yet another important corner of Main Street.
- You Live Where? In A Church? Holy Condo Watch (Broken Sidewalk)
- Architectural Artisans (Official Site)