Almost five years ago, a pair of abandoned, decaying warehouses on Old Louisville‘s Garvin Place caught fire. The quiet, forgotten expanse of street sits just north of the Oak Street commercial corridor, but then, prospects for the properties looked grim. Fast forward to 2014, and these Garvin Place warehouses are back in the game, with renovations underway to convert them into high-tech offices for Louisville-based energy and commodity analytics company, Genscape.
Genscape signed a lease for the 30,000 square foot space being developed by Garvin Place Properties, a venture of Greg Likins and Fitz Schultze. While it was about a third more room than the company needed, Annie Edwards, general counsel for Genscape, told Broken Sidewalk the opportunity was too good to pass up. “This is a diamond in the rough opportunity,” Edwards said. “We weren’t looking for you standard class A office space. We wanted something with a little more creativity that we could make our own.” She added, “The area is such a deal. You get the park and you get trees. In time as businesses and pubs and shops come, its going to get even better.”
Jeff Rawlins’ Nulu-based Architectural Artisans is handling the renovation work, taking care to preserve the building’s raw industrial edge. Edwards said the company wants to keep the building’s exposed brick, graffiti-covered walls, concrete floors, and open steel rafters. “We want the hard edges, the industrial look,” Edwards said. “Sometimes architects think you don’t want that because you’re a business and they try to talk you out of it. Jeff’s aesthetic was already aligned with ours, so it was very simple to explain what we were going for.”
Right now, the buildings are completely gutted. The brick walls will be power-washed but the graffiti on them will remain in place. The large spaces inside are divided by multiple levels that create a sense of privacy and playfulness inside the warehouses.
Urban Neighborhood an Employment Draw
Genscape moved to its current Nulu location nine years ago before the neighborhood was transformed into its current state. It hopes to see a similar transformation occur in Old Louisville. “We have enjoyed being on the forefront of a developing area in Louisville,” Edwards said. “Its been fun to watch it happen. When we moved to Nulu, it was a very different community.”
Edwards said the Old Louisville area’s urban qualities fit well with the type of employees Genscape seeks out. “We like the flavor there,” she said. “It’s aligned with our employees, who are often young, or young at heart, and outspoken. They like to work in environments that are aligned with that. People just want something that feels real.”
The walkability of Louisville’s densest neighborhood doesn’t hurt either. “Our CEO, Matthew Burkley, who moved here from London, bought a house in Old Louisville—one of the beautiful old brick houses,” Edwards said. “He could not believe the price that he got it for and has totally renovated it to be in keeping with the turn of the century era. He will be able to walk to work.” She said several other families live around Central Park and will be able to walk as well.
Room for Growth in Old Louisville
Still, the area has a ways to go before it realizes its full potential. “The old Winn Dixie [across the street from Genscape’s offices] is just an enormous hole in the neighborhood. It’s not just an eyesore but also a little bit of a safety concern,” Edwards said. “We’d love to see some loft development happen there. We’re already trying to plug the idea to developers. We have a lot of single employees who probably won’t want to take on one of the large brick houses.”
Genscape plans to move into their new offices in November 2015. The company currently employs 100 people in Louisville, but expects that number to grow to 180 in the next few years. The new offices can accommodate up to 300 people. Genscape also has offices in Amsterdam, Boston, Boulder, and Houston, each with 30 to 60 employees. Genscape was founded in 2000 by Sean O’Leary and Sterling Lapinski.
“We’re really proud of what we’re doing,” Edwards said. “I grew up in Louisville but moved to New England for twenty years. To come back to Louisville and see that it’s a city that’s current—on the edge—is great to see.”
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