Blue Responds To Preservationists On Iron Quarter

by Gabe Bullard on February 2, 2011

An agreement between Metro Government and developer Todd Blue could save the facades of a strip of buildings at First and Main streets. But two local preservation groups say they are disappointed in the deal, though they would likely have to spend millions to stop it.

Blue has dropped a court action seeking to destroy the buildings in exchange for help from the city preserving or rebuilding the facades. Preservation groups want the buildings kept whole or a guarantee that the facades will be saved, not recreated.

“Well that’s not preservation at all,” says attorney Steve Porter with OPEN Louisville. “You don’t tear down something that’s 170 years old and…quote recreate it,” he says.

Preservationists are also criticizing the mayor for making the deal without public input.

But it’s not clear whether or how the groups can block the deal. The agreement would likely supersede the local landmarks commission and declare the buildings unsafe. Blue says if preservationists aren’t happy, they can take the seven buildings off his hands for $1.5 million each.

“If they care so much about the buildings and they’re so passionate about them, instead of filing petitions and instead of being obstructionists, then they have every opportunity, per this agreement with the city, to step forward and purchase the buildings,” says Blue.

Blue says he hasn’t received any offers from developers or preservationists for the buildings. He contends that the strip cannot be reasonably preserved whole. He says he wants to maintain the area’s historical appearance, but he also wants to develop downtown.

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