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At a press conference today, in front of the old Water Company Building on Third Street, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a plan to save all or parts of the structure, and pledged city money to help in the effort.
The Mayor said his team — along with Craig Potts, the state’s historic preservation officer, and preservation leaders including the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Louisville — have been meeting to discuss options. “The bottom line is we are committed to saving all or parts of the historic old Water Company Building,” Fischer said. “The city is committed to providing up to $1 million dollars toward a relocation effort and we are announcing a 30-day deadline to find a new location and new owner for the building.”
The $1 million is money already set aside to help prepare the block for the Omni project. “I would rather use that money to help save some of the building,” Fischer said. “Preservation Louisville is dedicated to reuse of buildings and we are thrilled at this announcement during Historic Preservation Month,” said Marianne Zickuhr, executive director of Preservation Louisville.
Fischer said the proposed $300 million Omni Hotel complex -- which will include 225 apartments, a 600-room hotel and a 20,000 square foot grocery – presents challenges and opportunities relative to the reuse of the old Water Company building. It would cost taxpayers at least an extra $6 million to include property in the Omni and, even then, it would not remotely work with the hotel design.
In light of this, Fischer outlined three options:
● Move the entire old Water Company building;
● Move the portico, the façade, and 25 feet of the side walls;
● Move only the portico and place it on public land
Keeping the building in place is not an option, the Mayor said.
Because of the complexity of moving large structures, the city has been advised that the building should be relocated within a six-block radius of its current site. It could not move under interstate underpasses due to its height. Fischer said the city, along with preservation leaders, will attempt to find a private donor to accept the property and help provide additional funding necessary to prepare a site, which will need to have a foundation prepared so that the building can be placed on it.
Also, funds will need to be raised to pay for the relocation expenses that could include moving street lights and other potential obstacles. The city’s portion of the relocation is not estimated to cover all of these costs, but will be a significant contribution to defray total expenses.
The Omni project will be the largest construction project in the city, outside of the bridges project, and it will create 760 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs. There are several required administrative steps to move forward.
To get the process started, the city will soon file for approvals from the Downtown Development Review Overlay Committee -- one to seek approval to remove the structures that will not ultimately be moved and another to approve the Omni complex. The Odd Fellows property is not part of the current Omni development. Businesses or individuals interested in helping save the old water company building should contact the city’s advanced planning team -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The city has moved historic properties in the past --- although not of the size of the old Water Company building. The Bethany Chapel in Valley Station was moved in 2006 from near Dixie Highway to the Farnsley-Moremen Landing, where it’s now used for community events, celebrations and weddings.
Fischer said Potts, the state historic preservation officer, has been especially helpful as he and his team connected the city to professional building movers. “I believe that, by working together and on an expedited timeframe, we can find a new home for this property,” Fischer said. “It will be difficult; it will take more money than the city currently has, but I pledge today that our goal is success.”