One of downtown Louisville’s tiniest buildings is in danger of demolition after a wall shifted a few inches as crews were performing utility work. A tipster wrote in this morning reporting Intent to Demolish signs posted on the Armory Place Utility Sub-Station just south of Liberty Street, which is unique for resisting the bulldozer when a parking garage was built around it in the 1980s.
The structure is owned by LG&E, which is performing upgrades to gas pipelines in the area. Chip Keeling, vice president of corporate communications at LG&E, said the building dates to 1919 or 1920 and was originally built without a foundation, which was likely the cause of the shifting wall. Utility work at the site involved installing a new gas regulator and replacing pipes.
En engineering analysis expected to take about 30 days is currently being performed by Qk4 Engineering to determine the cost of saving the structure. Because of the time involved with the study, Keeling said LG&E also took out a demolition permit in case the building were not salvageable, which also requires 30 days. “We need to know if we can keep this building in place and not have it fall apart,” he said. “We want to see what the engineers say and then make a decision.” Keeling said even if the building does get torn down, the company would try to save the facade or bricks to incorporate into the project.
Richard Jett, historic preservation officer with Metro Louisville, said the city asked LG&E to move the facility in the 1980s when the parking garage was being built, but it proved too expensive, resulting in the brick building defiantly resting in a notch in the concrete facade. At the time, some reinforcing was installed to counter the lack of a foundation, but now more stabilization is needed to keep this historic oddity standing.
The city has discussed several options with LG&E to save the facility, including attaching a beam to the sturdy elevator shaft of the parking garage. Jett estimated that costs to stabilize such a small building could range from $10,000 to $20,000, but also mentioned complications could arise. He considers the historic structure to be a contributing building to the area, noting that it’s a rare example of industrial architecture in Louisville.
The demolition permit was issued this week, but the clock is ticking unless a stabilization plan is established. Jett gives the building a 50/50 chance of survival. “LG&E has been cooperative in preserving historic infrastructure in the past,” he said. “They are committed to looking at alternatives seriously. I take them at their word.”