The Olympic Apartments on the corner of Third Street and Breckinridge Street in SoBro are getting set for a top to bottom renovation that could be open in early 2010. Roberto Bajandas of Baja Works Development Corporation says the first step involves removing lead paint from the structure. With help from a city grant, Baja Works is currently stripping the building’s paint and replacing the windows. Full scale renovation activity is expected to begin in about three months.
Previously cut up into 40 tiny apartments, mostly efficiency studios, the new Olympic will have 24 units with low to moderate rents. The building is unique as it is one of only a handful of art-nouveau-style buildings in the city. Art nouveau, meaning “new art” is a French style that was popular around the turn of the century and is noted for its fluid, organic shapes and details. This structure is believed to date from the 1920s, and terra-cotta ornaments set into the brick exhibit classic art nouveau motifs.
Three metal and glass awnings are also ornately detailed and will be cleaned up during the renovation. The awnings are all very curvy and held to the wall by Lions. The grand awning on the corner, currently covered by a plywood sign for Mr. Z’s Diner, is also expected to be restored, but its current condition is largely unknown. Standing beneath the awning, you can see the perimeter has all its metal details but several glass panes are broken. An out-of-place HVAC unit sitting on top of the awning will also be relocated to the roof.
The 30,000 square foot building contains first floor street retail space, but only one is being used as a diner. Originally, these small spaces each had a tin ceiling, but they are now in very poor condition, like the rest of the building. Most of the tin is not able to be salvaged, but Bajandas says there may be enough to restore one ceiling. Any additional street level retail in SoBro would be a great benefit to the area.
Baja Works has already restored several buildings in Old Louisville and Limerick, most notably the large Tudor-style Stuart Apartments on the corner of Sixth Street and Oak Street. The Stuart Apartments are another mixed-use building and looks great today. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a visit as it’s another architectural rarity in Louisville. The ground floor space is currently set up for apartments, but was designed to be easily converted to retail when the market allows. Bajandas also has other plans to build new mixed-use structures on the Oak Street corridor as the market improves.
Overall, we’re very glad to see this SoBro landmark restored. This is another one of our favorite buildings in town and anchors the corner very well. Not to mention it behaves very nicely as an urban building with street level retail and apartments above. Its central location adjacent to Spalding University, the Main Library, and Downtown only add to the building’s value.