A portion of the roof was lifted off Louisville Gardens and dropped onto Armory Place by Wednesday night's storm. | Courtesy of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government
A portion of the roof was lifted off Louisville Gardens and dropped onto Armory Place by Wednesday night’s storm. | Courtesy of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

As a bulldozer and at least a dozen government workers cleaned up the roofing material that flew off Louisville Gardens Wednesday night, Cathy Duncan, director of facilities for Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, pitched the building as a great investment opportunity for developers.

Because of the damage caused by last night’s strong winds, Duncan said, workers found two previously undiscovered murals as well as “absolutely gorgeous trusses” in Louisville Gardens, a 111-year-old building that closed in 2009. It’s located at 525 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.

“It’s a silver lining,” she said.

One mural was for Early Times’ 90-proof whiskey and the other Duncan described as a manufacturing mural.

The building originally served as the Jefferson County Armory and later acted primarily as an event venue. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke there. Frank Sinatra, Elvis and Eric Clapton were a few of the artists who performed there. However, even amid the downtown development boom, the city has struggled to find anyone willing to redevelop the property.

“We are looking for any ideas. It could be a music venue. It could be an event space. It could be some condos. It could be apartments,” said Chris Poynter, spokesman for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s office. “There is a lot of space in there.”

Poynter later told Insider Louisville that he was mistaken in his above comment and that the city believe the best reuse is as an event space or venue, not condos or apartments.

Last year, the city rejected a potential redevelopment plan presented by Louisville-based company Underhill Associates because officials didn’t think the plan included enough public use, according to The Courier-Journal. The project would have turned the Louisville Gardens into apartments and retail.

And not just anyone can afford to redevelop it.

“It’s very unique. It’s a 6,000-seat facility. It’s going to take at least $25 million to redevelop it,” Poynter said. “We know that it will eventually be redeveloped. That’s why we were putting this roof on, to protect it. We will put the roof on, and we will be looking for folks to develop down the road.”

The city already had hired a company called WPC Roofing prior to the storm to replace Louisville Gardens’ roof on Saturday. The contract was for $400,000, but following Wednesday night’s storm, the cost and work needed have changed.

“We were protecting this building. It’s a beautiful building,” Duncan said, noting that she doesn’t know the total cost to repair and replace the roof.

This Ford Explorer was in the wrong place when part of the Louisville Gardens' roof fell off. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling
This Ford Explorer was in the wrong place when part of the Louisville Gardens’ roof fell off. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Strong winds shorn part of the roof off from the front of the building to the back during Wednesday’s storm. “You can see the sky,” she said.

In addition to the roof, the only other building damage was to ceiling tiles that made up part of the drop ceiling in the building.

WPC Roofing workers were on-site Thursday morning chucking the remaining loose debris off the roof of Louisville Gardens, so they could place a temporary plastic covering over the roof to prevent additional damage and water from leaking into the building during the storms expected this afternoon.

Louisville Metro Police Department also has reached out to the poor, unfortunate soul who parked his or her Ford Explorer on Armory Place. There were no injuries, but the car met the same fate as the Wicked Witch of the East.

The police department plans to move the vehicle to a city impound lot until it can be retrieved. Duncan said the city’s insurance would most likely cover the damage to the individual’s car.

Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]