Every once in a while a story comes along that gets you so conflicted that you really don’t know how to approach it, so you don’t. This is what happened to me yesterday. I was combing my usual sources for a post I could put together yesterday when I came across the story I’m about to discuss. I couldn’t really wrap my mind around it.
See in real life I am a planner. I go to work every day and I plan for transportation, and land uses. Roads, highways, bridges, public transit, bikes, and pedestrians. That is my forte, but I also get involved from time to time in decisions that can have an historic impact as well as a clear financial benefit to the community I am working for.
This is what got me so conflicted yesterday when I came across this bit of information from www.bbqandbourbon.com. What you see in the photo are a row of buildings that are over 150 years old. These warehouses were the birthplace of the American Bourbon industry. This place is also known as “Whiskey Row”, or what is left of it, a set of dilapidated buildings in the heart of Downtown Louisville…
I get it. The City has a developer that wants to do an urban renewal project that would replace this one square city block with a couple of hotels, vibrant shops, restaurants, and residential housing, and turn what is an eyesore into a vital part of a downtown that has struggled. Not only would this development give the downtown a needed fiscal shot in the arm but it will provide employment, business opportunities, and much needed tax valuation. So I get it.
The other side of this argument is compelling as well, and I get that too. We are all too ready to demolish our history in the name of progress, money, taxes, take your pick. History gets the shaft every time, and we are all the worse off for it. These buildings are on the National Historic Register and have been granted Landmark Status in July of 2010. That and $1.00 will get you a cup of coffee at McDonalds.
It just adds a layer of bureaucracy that you need to get over before you can tear the suckers down and build something shiny and new. In the spirit of Historic Preservation and to get the granola eating (his thoughts, not mine) preservationists off his back the developer met with the city planners and the Mayor’s office to see if a compromise solution could be agreed to.
So Mayor Soloman told him to split the baby in half! Actually the Mayor’s name is Greg Fischer and the developer has promised to “try” and keep the facades of the buildings intact and just demolish the warehouse portion and redevelop the block with the old timey facades. I’ve seen this before and what it invariably looks like is Soldier field. Basically they just kept the column facade and dropped a space ship behind them. I’m hopeful that the Louisville project can be a little more sensitive to the historic qualities of the old warehouse facades, but I’m not optimistic.
So what do you think? Do you wish we were less inclined to jettison our history for progress and economic renewal or do you accept it as the inevitable evolution of a city? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.