Theater Square, a grouping of three buildings around a courtyard on Fourth Street, is beginning its disappearing act with the dismantling of Barney Bright‘s whimsical, 40-foot-tall Louisville Clock at the end of last week.
The plaza and its buildings are being torn down for an ill-conceived corporate headquarters expansion for Kindred Healthcare, which will recreate the public space as a forecourt for the company’s new building and ground floor restaurant.
The Louisville Clock’s move has been a long time coming, according to city officials.
Last December, the Louisville Downtown Partnership‘s Executive Director Rebecca Matheny said the clock, which had not kept time since the summer of 2014, would be relocated somewhere indoors following damage from weather and vandals—someone even broke a leg off one of the clock’s metal horses.
At the time, no location was set but Matheny speculated that it could end up at the Kentucky International Convention Center, the fairgrounds, or the airport. The main criteria for a new home are that the site is indoors and open to the public. Mayor Greg Fischer has the final say on where the city-owned clock will go, the Courier-Journal noted.
That move was delayed, but the clock is now sitting in storage in the Portland neighborhood. The LDP told Wave3 that there is currently no funding to repair the clock or relocate it somewhere else. The move last week cost $10,000 and was paid for privately. There’s also no timetable for getting the clock out of storage.
The Louisville Clock has kept watch over Theater Square since August 2012 following a multi-year, multi-million-dollar restoration effort by a group called Friends of the Louisville Clock. Funding primarily came from Adam Burckle’s Adam Matthews Foundation.
Steve Wiser, an architect who helped with the restoration, told Broken Sidewalk that the clock has brought revitalization in its wake wherever it has been located. It originally stood on the old River City Mall where the old Galleria and now 4th Street Live! stand. “The clock’s main reason for existing is to improve downtown,” Wiser told Broken Sidewalk.
“Prior to the Clock’s arrival, Theater Square was a ‘no man’s land’ where few visited,” Wiser added. “A large berm separated it from Fourth Street and the clock project removed the berm and opened the square up for safety and visibility.” He remained optimistic that a new permanent site will be found.
I’m still bummed about losing Theatre Square. Sure at times it could be a little sketchy with some of the spill out from the night club and the occasional homeless bathing activities in the fountain. But it was also one of the few places in downtown one could people watch as pedestrians made their way to the Brown. There are so few functional public spaces and sidewalk cafes in downtown Louisville. It really is a shame, but sadly this is what we do in Louisville. Few of cities manage to destroy functioning urban areas and replace them with garbage like we do.
I really think the perfect place for the clock would be inside the airport to greet visitors.