Preservation Louisville is now inactive, but that doesn’t mean preservation efforts in Louisville are slowing down.
The nonprofit devoted to promoting the preservation of old and historic buildings in the city is now part of another nonprofit called Vital Sites, which offers a revolving loan fund for preservation-related projects in Louisville. Preservation Louisville is technically a sub-organization within Vital Sites but, for the most part, will remain dormant.
“We had interlocking memberships with their board, and so as we evolved, it just became natural for us to become one organization,” said Charles Cash, an architect and former head of Preservation Louisville. “Preservation has always been in Louisville under funded and in need of something that can encourage growth, and we hope this new approach is a way to do that — to be involved early and often.”
Vital Sites gave a $1 million revolving loan to the developers of 111 Whiskey Row, which will be repaid over time. The project is revitalizing the vacant historic Whiskey Row buildings near First Street downtown. The development will include apartments, restaurants, office space, a speakeasy and Duluth Trading Co.
“The thought was we needed a proactive approach to keep our older buildings and the heritage of the community,” Cash said.
Now, the nonprofit is preparing to invest $500,000 in what its board is calling Broadway Row, a collection of five historic shotguns in the 1200 block of Broadway near Baxter Avenue.
The houses were supposed to be purchased and demolished by Ohio-based developer Edwards Cos. to make way for an apartment complex. However, residents complained that the developer wasn’t doing enough to preserve the historic infrastructure along Broadway.
Following that feedback, Edwards Cos. agreed not to take over the properties, and the Rogers family, which previously owned the five houses and Phoenix Hill Tavern, donated them to Preservation Louisville
Post-merger, Vital Sites is preparing to start renovation work in October. Once complete, the houses will be sold at affordable prices, Cash said, declining to say what price range the nonprofit is considering.
Gregg Rochman, with Shine Contracting, will oversee the renovation of all five homes.
Cash said several of the houses had most of the original details from when they were built in the late 1800s, and those would be maintained. The houses range in size from roughly 1,200 square feet to 1,650 square feet, according to Jefferson County property records.
Vital Sites also is actively looking for investors and new projects. “We are in a fundraising mode right now to raise another $1.5 million,” Cash said.
The nonprofit has several subcommittees to focus on different buildings such as Broadway Row and The Brennan House, which Preservation Louisville maintains. One group is seeking out potential preservation-related investment opportunities in West Louisville.
“Our goal is not to be a developer. We are not trying to become someone who takes the place of New Directions,” Cash said. “What we want to be is a supporter of the older buildings in our community and try to be a facilitator of good things.”
Vital Sites wants to serve as a lender, a gap financier and in other roles that promote preservation and reuse.
“Preservation needs a makeover, and I hope that Vital Sites is that makeover,” Cash said.
The current Vital Sites board includes Cash; Anne Arensberg, a consultant for Kentucky Natural Lands Trust; Amy Curry, an attorney at Frost Brown Todd; Todd Irvin, owner of Executive Elevator Co.; real estate developer and Mayin owner Valle Jones; David Ritchay, vice president of development for Commonwealth Development Corp.; Kimberly Stephenson, vice president of development for The Marian Group; and real estate developer and Woodcock Inc. owner Thomas Woodcock.