LOUISVILLE, Ky., May 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A block that once served as home to Kentucky's famed bourbon industry has been saved from demolition thanks to a group of investors led by Louisville philanthropists and developers Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown.
Whiskey Row is a collection of buildings built between 1852 and 1905 that housed a variety of whiskey producers and merchants; the collection of buildings were on a list of Louisville Most Endangered Historic Places and were slated for demolition later this summer. Main Street is home to one of the largest remaining collection of cast-iron facade buildings in the United States. Architects include D.X. Murphy who designed Louisville-landmark Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.
The announcement came today from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer who stated that the block, adjacent to the new YUM! Arena and once slated for demolition, will be saved and renovated, thanks to an agreement between the city, local developers and preservation leaders.
Wilson and Brown -- farmers, preservationists and owners and developers of 21c Museum Hotel -- said the Main Street buildings' beauty and history, along with the strong involvement and leadership of Mayor Fischer, convinced them that they needed to save the structures.
"They simply were too important for our city to lose -- and we are honored to give these old buildings new life," Wilson said.
Wilson and Brown have a long record of preservation. In 2006, the couple converted several abandoned downtown warehouses into the 21c Museum Hotel; they are currently renovating The Metropole Hotel in Cincinnati into another 21c Museum Hotel property. In addition, the couple's home at Woodland Farm, a 1,000-acre property 20-miles outside of Louisville, was built in the 1790s and restored by Wilson and Brown; the couple also placed a conservation easement on the property to ensure it is never densely developed.
A group headed by Wilson and Brown have agreed to purchase four buildings from previous owner Todd Blue of Cobalt Ventures. Blue will donate a fifth building to the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation which, in turn, will donate it to the investment group.
The deal saves five of the seven westernmost buildings while allowing previous owner Blue to demolish the two easternmost buildings and continue plans for a hotel. However, the facades of those two structures will be preserved to protect the architectural heritage and integrity of the block.
The investment group, which was created by the Downtown Development Corp. and includes the Brown-Forman Corp and several civic-minded partners who wish to remain anonymous, is paying $4.85 million for the properties. Brown and Wilson will be the developers and plans for the buildings are still to be determined.
Brown-Forman, which in the early 1900s had operations in the Whiskey Row block, will receive naming rights to one of the buildings.
"These architectural treasures, once the center of Louisville's historic bourbon industry, are now saved for future generations," Fischer said. "This is a very good day for our city -- and a very good day for Louisville's historic fabric."
"There was a determination from everyone – seller and buyers – to do right for our city today – and for future generations," Fischer continued. "There was a shared, intense drive to maintain the authenticity that Whiskey Row provides. Louisville is blessed to have such a unique architectural collection of cast iron facades that stretch down Main Street."
"Many people made this deal happen," Fischer said. "But I want to say a special thanks to Steve and Laura Lee, Brown-Forman and the many investment partners. Their dedication to our city and to its history is inspiring."
"The renovation and new construction that will occur here represents the best of preserving our past and building our future," the Mayor said. "Buildings are not just things. They are places where experiences happen and potential comes alive. With the vibrancy of the YUM! Center and this entire area, Whiskey Row will be one of our city's magical places."
Bob Gunnell, representing Wilson and Brown, 502-554-0940
Chris Poynter, Mayor's Office, 502-574-4546 / 502-475-0354
SOURCE Brown-Wilson Ventures