Two historic buildings at 308-310 East Main Street are set for demolition under the watch of Todd Blue, but we should have seen this coming. The three-story brick and limestone buildings, excellent examples of vernacular architecture in Louisville, are apparently the sacrificial lambs of the Whiskey Row deal that saved five of the seven Landmarked buildings just down the street that Blue had previously sought to tear down.
We first called out this set of buildings as endangered back in 2008 when Todd Blue first intended to demolish the structures and we notified preservation leaders in the community. It’s unclear why Blue did not follow through with demolition then, but luckily the buildings lasted past their first brush with death. Now painted head-to-toe in a nondescript beige that makes them seem to almost disappear from the street (perhaps the point), the buildings prewar examples in the two blocks between Floyd and Jackson streets (save Slugger Field).
“The only way to stop the demolition would be if the buildings were landmarked and then reviewed by the landmarks commission,” said attorney Stephen Porter, a prominent player in rescuing Whiskey Row. He said preservationists would most likely not fight for the preservation of these buildings as Todd Blue, who is fond of calling himself a great preservationist, could back out of the Whiskey Row deal, leaving eastern downtown literally in ruins. “That’s the deal the mayor made. I think he gave away the store here,” said Porter. “The most important thing is to save Whiskey Row.” Marianne Zickuhr of Preservation Louisville agreed saving these buildings would not be a preservation priority.
In fact, the Whiskey Row deal is contingent on the demolition of 308 East Main Street (along with demolishing two of the seven Whiskey Row buildings). Also part of the deal, the city is selling an adjacent vacant parcel to the east to Blue for $1, giving him a quarter of a block which will most likely remain a parking lot for years to come. Porter quipped that we may as well rename Possibility City to “Parkability City.”
Another group of two-story buildings, one featuring a cast-iron storefront, were demolished on the corner parcel owned by a group led by Blue at Floyd and Main streets in 2005. Blue had presented a development plan for the area at that time for a mixed-use condo and office development called The Hub. Renderings released then showed 308 East Main Street incorporated into the new complex. The Hub included a pair of five-story structures surrounding the 19th century buildings with a distinctive round corner.
The continued fallout of Todd Blue’s failed Iron Quarter project on the Whiskey Row block has left the prospect of preservation in Louisville in shambles. How many more buildings will be lost before this city realizes what it’s throwing away?