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By Curtis Morrison, Louisville Courant

Look for the investors in Whiskey Row to have the seven historic Main Street buildings stabilized by next summer.

Louisville Downtown Development Corp. hosted a meeting this morning for Attorney Craig Greenberg and developer Julie “Valle” Jones to update the preservation community on the progress of redevelopment on the Whiskey Row block.

In a nutshell, now that the developers have their money invested, they are eager to make progress and have set a deadline for end of the second quarter of 2012 for the completion of the project’s phase 1, or stabilization.

The investment group has invested resources to do a significant analysis of the elements, and the condition of the buildings has been determined to be “surprisingly bad,” as a slide read during the presentation.

The most distressing information revealed by that analysis was the condition of the buildings at 117 W. Main St. and 119 W. Main St. Having gone without roof for so long, “all the original material is unsalvageable,” Greenberg said.

The plan outlined for preservationists had been developed while working with the Kentucky Heritage Council and the U.S. Department of the Interior, and both entities will be participating in providing tax credits for the project.

In a letter dated August 29, 2011 to Greenberg, the Department of Interior wrote: “Based on the level of apparent deterioration … this is an acceptable proposal.”

Phase 1 includes:

· Demolition of 117 W. Main and 119 W. Main, with the preservation of the front facade only, as the Washington St. façades are bowed. What will be left of these two buildings in the approximate middle of the block will be the W. Main St façade and the shared walls with 121 W. Main and 115 W. Main, and the space will be left without roof until a future phase.

· The demolition of the two eastern-most buildings, the facades of which will be retained and transferred to Todd Blue with a preservation easement. (Blue gets to have a parking lot on this spot for up to five years.)

· New temporary roofs on the middle three buildings, 111 W. Main through 115 W. Main, just to keep the water out of the buildings.

· Construction of steel and concrete supports for remaining facades. No steel will be needed on the W. Main St side of the buildings.

While the city committed $1.5 million for the stabilization efforts, the group has learned that investment is less than what is needed to get the job done properly.

That optimistic $1.5 million figure originated from a report two years ago by Tetra Tech Engineers. Greenberg showed before and after photos in the presentation, illustrating how the condition of the properties worsened just in those two years, which is likely a factor in why Tetra’s figure wasn’t enough.

The investment group closed on the buildings on August 1, 2011, and is made up of Brown-Forman Corp., Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, Jim and Mary Ann Welch, the Downtown Development Corporation and others who have chosen to remain anonymous. Already, the group has over $4.8 million in the project.

According to Valle Jones, the group committed to the project because they care about preservation, blind to the what true costs the development will ultimately require.

Jones said the group’s partnership with the city and use of tax credits, with the preservation community at the table, is unique chance for Louisville to show off a new way for not just our city, but other cities nationwide to take on preservation.

“We’re going to need support. We will need the preservation community to help with resources and support role and we’ll hope you have a role in creating a real model,” Jones said.

About Curtis Morrison: Curtis Morrison is a blogger, activist, graduate student at the Kent School of Social Work, and on the board of Neighborhood Planning and Preservation, Inc., one of the preservation partners that sued, protested, and lobbied for Whiskey Row’s preservation.

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