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Newly formed nonprofit Vital Sites is proving to developers and others that building reuse is a sustainable building strategy for Louisville, according to Charles Cash, an architect and board chair for Vital Sites.

Come spring 2018, five vacant and dilapidated houses on East Broadway near Baxter Avenue will have undergone a complete facelift. The houses, which range from 1,200 square feet to 1,600 square feet, were donated to Vital Sites from the previous owners, the Rogers family, which owned the now demolished Phoenix Hill Tavern as well.

Once rejuvenated, the properties will be sold at an affordable price. The estimated renovation costs are still being finalized, and the nonprofit has not set sale prices, Cash said. The sale of the houses are expected to cover the construction loans being taken out to renovate the properties.

Representatives with Vital Sites extolled the power of mixing historic renovations with new construction in urban in-fill lots.

“The old enhances the central authenticity and uniqueness and the ‘we are based in Louisville’-ness, and the new brings density and diverse uses that are hallmarks of dynamic urban redevelopment,” said Valle Jones, a developer and Vital Sites board member.

All five homes were constructed sometime in the 1890s and are being preserved. Meanwhile, a 260-unit, multimillion-dollar apartment building is under construction in the same block.

“We are seeing an entire neighborhood recreated,” said Christy Lee Brown, a local philanthropist who has helped promote historic renovation in Louisville by funding half of a historic preservation revolving loan fund.

The funds currently are aiding the 111 Whiskey Row development. Once the funds are repaid, they will help pay for another historic preservation project.

“The vision was much broader than just a few buildings,” said Jones, a partner in 111 Whiskey Row.

Mayor Greg Fischer says it is important to proactively identify buildings in Louisville that can and should be preserved. He also took the opportunity to plug the need to provide better incentives through the state historic tax credit program for adaptive reuse projects. The state currently offers a maximum of $400,000 in tax credits to developers.

“There is no money Frankfort loses through state historic tax credits,” he said.

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