Demolition has been going on for some time now on East Main Street at the former D & W Silks building where asymmetric 18-story towers are eventually planned by Jefferson Development Group. The destruction has continued steadily and little of the structure remains. There’s a salvage operation going on and old bricks are being stacked on pallets for salvage along with massive wooden timbers and various steel components. When demolition started, we didn’t have many details, but we now have a clearer picture of what’s going on.
We originally thought it strange that these two structures never had an intent to demolish sign posted even though they sit in the Phoenix Hill National Register District. It turns out that the City had deemed them non-contributing to the historic fabric of the area due to alterations and “apparent structural instability.” Preservationists had wondered why Louisville is so loose with its preservation standards and were caught unaware of the pending demolitions.
Plans filed with the city call for a gross 1.26 million square feet of new space for the 2 acre site. Included in the $150 million project is a 1,200 spot, partially underground parking garage with 22,000 square feet of retail. Above, 680,000 square feet of new office space in ten and twelve story towers would rise from a 9,000 square foot park on top of the garage for a total height of 16- to 18-stories. Shortly after we wrote about the demolition beginning, the C-J got an interview (now offline) with the developer, Jefferson Development Group:
[Robert Webber, president of Jefferson Development Group,] said that construction of new office space downtown has been almost non-existent in recent years, leaving companies that want 20,000 square feet or more of top quality space in the central business district with very limited opportunities.
Jeff Dreher, an office broker with Commercial Kentucky, which tracks local office usage, said downtown’s Class A, or best quality office space was 7.9 percent vacant as of Sept. 30, one of the lowest vacancy rates in years.
Even with the suburban vacancy rate, in comparison, at 18.9 percent, Dreher said the downtown market has “reached the threshold” where a lot of experts think new construction makes sense. “If the economy keeps coming back, we will need something” in the way of new downtown office space soon, he said.
Webber said, however, that with commercial lending tight, the partners probably need to have at least 60 percent of any new office space leased, before being able to get a construction loan for that space. Financing, he said, “will be difficult. No question.”
In the near-term, the site is likely to be converted into a parking lot. According to documents filed with the City, Jefferson Development moved up the demolition date, a move the C-J said is to show investors they’re serious about construction, and pushed back the time frame to begin construction, likely to provide time for the economy to recover and for tenants to be found. Jefferson Development Group now has until the end of 2011 to begin new construction on the site, but environmental and archaeological studies must be complete by the end of 2010.
- Demo Watch: D&W Silks Building Coming Down (Broken Sidewalk)