Whiskey Row stabilization under negotiation after project price tag balloons


by Joe Arnold


Posted on May 3, 2012 at 4:29 PM

Updated Friday, May 4 at 12:25 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- One year after an eleventh hour spared historic Whiskey Row buildings from the wrecking ball, WHAS11 news has learned that it's going to take yet another agreement that includes more city money to save those same buildings on East Main Street.

Metro Councilman David Tandy tells WHAS11 that the city could either dip into the general fund or issue bonds to fund the project.

Because the cost to stabilize the century old buildings is multiple times more than original estimates, the investment group that stepped in to save the buildings last year is now offering to chip in more money to stabilize the buildings, but only if the city agrees to increase its investment, too.

"I think we will have to collectively work together and try to figure out what's the best way about going about doing it," Tandy said.  "I think everything has to be laid out on the table to see how we can best go forward with it."

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer declined to directly address the proposed terms of a new agreement.

"It's evolving in terms of its complexity,"  Fischer told WHAS11, "but it's moving along fine."

Whiskey Row developers were not available for comment but WHAS11 News has learned that investors plan to update the public on the status of the project next week, one year after the original preservation deal was announced.

On May 9, 2011, with a demolition deadline looming, the investment group led by Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown swept in to save the neglected bourbon warehouses, agreeing to pay $4.85 million to preserve and develop five of the dilapidated buildings and the facades of two others.

As part of the agreement, the city agreed to a $1.5 million forgivable loan for preservation and demolition work, work that was planned to be complete by June, 2012, next month.  Yet, since developers offered a limited peek inside the decaying buildings in November, there has been no outward sign of any stabilization work.

"Whiskey Row is coming together," Fischer insisted. "Like many construction projects, it takes longer, a little bit more.  But it's moving in the right direction.  It's going to be a great project."

Tandy, who represents the Fourth Metro Council District which includes Whiskey Row, says the city should consider a new deal with developers for both short term restoration jobs and the long term economic gains of a key city block that neighbors the KFC Yum Center.

"I'm confident that (the deal) won't fall apart," Tandy said.  "Of course, I'm always the eternal optimist, always wanting to make sure our city is continuing to move forward.  I think everybody will do everything that they can to move it forward."

Tandy said the restoration will "maintain our architectural history and integrity that we have there on East Main Street."

"It is something that is certainly a major part of the character and makes Louisville unique," Tandy continued.  "And with its proximity to the KFC Yum Center it will allow for us to again kind of highlight and showcase some of the unique qualities that we have here in the city."