Brick utility sub-station on Armory Place could be demolished. (Courtesy Tipster)
Brick utility sub-station on Armory Place could be demolished. (Courtesy Tipster)
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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.

Brick utility sub-station on Armory Place could be demolished. (Via Google)
Brick utility sub-station on Armory Place could be demolished. (Via Google)

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.”

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Are demolition permits just issued when you apply for one? Isn’t there some kind of a review process before it’s issued?

  2. Why would anyone want to tear down a building that cute???? One more reason for a Downtown Preservation District. If I keep putting off taking the 1.2 sq mile of pictures to get this done, I’ll have much fewer pictures to take.

  3. @jamie
    Of course if the parking garage was demolished it would only be replaced with a surface parking lot which would look even worse! Everything that has been torn down downtown ends up becoming a surface parking lot (except for the arena)!

  4. I’m not sure why there is a need for engineering analysis is this case … save the cost and put footers underneath the walls. Seems simple enough.

  5. Is it bricks that people hate? Everything made of brick seems to be in danger of the wrecking ball.

  6. A pittance out of the LG and E coffers to do the right thing and save this little cupcake from demolition…..what a wry little bit of substance in an otherwise boring locale, and it certainly links the historic buildings on either end of the block….both of which have been adaptively reused over the years.
    C’mon LG and E, show as much character as this little leftover of a better day and fix her up. She’s a survivor.

  7. @dar
    You have to remember that LG&E is not a Louisville company anymore! They are now owned by PP&L who only looks of them has a profit center!

  8. Karl is correct! Take the money LG&E would give to a consultant for an ‘evaluation’ and use a power auger to bore 6 footers, pour concrete in the 6 holes use 4 galvanized I-beams on the new footers and beneath the brick walls. I’m an engineer, and that procedure could be done for a couple thousand dollars. Less $ than a consultants fee !

  9. @Mark- It’s true that LG&E isn’t a Louisville company anymore, but they haven’t been for a long time. They were bought by a British company in 2000, which was bought by a German company in 2002. PPL bought them last year, but they’re based in Pennsylvania, which is a lot better than Germany!

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