Home News Louisville apartment plan calls for redeveloping historic bourbon site

Louisville apartment plan calls for redeveloping historic bourbon site

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The three-story red-brick Lickhouse stands on the corner of Lexington Road and Payne Street, part of the sprawling Bourbon Distillery campus since 1895.

of Irish Hill Landmarks in the district as it is now called Distillery Commons For decades it was used to store tens of thousands of aging bourbon barrels in a wooden racking system, but has remained empty since the late 1970s.

Various plans over the years to redevelop the Nelson Distillery’s warehouses into residential and office space fell through.

Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a new vision for the site calls for the leveling of warehouses and construction of a multi-purpose building, part of a larger multi-family redevelopment of the Distillery Commons complex. – $75 million total investment.

Missouri-based developer Bamboo Equity Partners has asked the city to allow its demolition, arguing that its use is limited and there is no financially viable avenue to restore the old rick house.

Warehouses will be replaced by mixed-use structures tentatively called ‘Rickhouse Apartments’, which will include a restaurant and retail space on the ground floor and 42 one- and two-bedroom rental units on floors three and four. .

The proposed redevelopment isn’t just a warehouse demo and new buildings.

The Distillery Commons building, now home to a variety of businesses, has been converted into an apartment complex of 167 rental units (studios, one and two bedrooms) and amenity spaces, including a pool, expanded It has ground parking and a courtyard.

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The nearby Headliners Music Hall is not part of the proposed development.

“We want to relive history and breathe new life into these buildings,” said Bamboo Founder and Managing Principal Dan Dokovic. “We’re trying to connect the community there, and we’re trying to create a hub where you can live there. You can go downstairs and have lunch at a restaurant and go to Headliners at night and hear a show. .”

Dokovic said the entire redevelopment plan rests on approval for demolition. This is because the new building proposed for the Rickhouse site will give the project sufficient scale to work.

Current requests from developers will be submitted to the Louisville Metro Government Building Review Board on August 24. If denied there and appealed, the matter will be sent to the Louisville Commission for Historic Landmarks and Preservation Districts.

This isn’t the first time the historic Bourbon Lickhouse has been demolished.

The current warehouse owner, Louisville-based Barrel House Lofts LLC, attempted to demolish the building in 2020, citing the poor condition of the structure.

Irish Hill Neighborhood Association successfully petitioned The city designates the warehouse as a regional landmark.

Lisa Santos, president of the Irish Hill Neighborhood Association, was a key member of the effort to mark the warehouse as a Louisville landmark in 2020. This gives you extra protection.

While the project itself seems like a good fit for the area, the proposal to level one of the last parts of the historic Bourbon distillery’s campus was “unsettling” and the owners decided to build an old rickhouse instead. could have been avoided with better management, she said. Pursuing “demolition by negligence”.

“What they’re trying to do with the Distillery Commons is proper use of the building,” she said. “We would like to see the rickhouse incorporated as part of the development.”

100 years of history

Before the neighborhood petitioned to have the warehouse added to the local Landmarks Register, the owners filed to have the building added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1895-1896, the warehouse is one of the last remnants of Anderson-Nelson Distillery, once Kentucky’s largest and oldest bourbon distillery. document submission for inclusion in the national historical register.

The distillery complex grew along a working-class neighborhood that was settled by many Irish and German immigrants in the mid-1800s.

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A number of distilleries have operated here for about 134 years. At its largest, there was approximately 35 acres of production space on either side of Lexington Road.

The application states that it serves as “a physical reminder of Louisville’s role in the Kentucky bourbon whiskey industry” and “survives as a rare example of Louisville’s early bourbon aging warehouse.”

Increased competition and declining demand eventually ended bourbon production at this location in the 1970s.

Development efforts to date

Since Kinetic Properties’ Ray Schumann purchased most of Distillery Commons in 1979, the complex has been home to up-and-coming technology companies, antique studios, advertising and design firms, and is used for self-storage purposes. I came

Buildings on the sprawling distilling campus have been demolished over the years, such as when a warehouse was demolished to make room for Breckinridge Franklin Elementary School in 1997.

According to documents filed with the city as part of the 2020 Landmark Lawsuit, the current owner of Lickhouse, Barrell House Lofts LLC, contracted 100 distillery commons in July 2013, and in 2014 It closed in January after being purchased from Schumann for $250,000.

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It was during this time that Kinetic submitted the building for consideration. National Register of Historic Places.

Barrel House Lofts’ original plan in 2014 was to develop Rickhouse into more than 60 apartments. historic tax creditwhich allows developers to recoup up to 20% of rehab costs.

Original plans were abandoned when tax credits were denied because the loft project did not meet historic rehabilitation standards, according to the owner.

They then tried to attract new investors to reuse the existing building, but without success. In documents filed against the 2020 landmarking of Lickhouse, the owner said high redevelopment costs were cited as a deal breaker.

Barrel House Lofts’ Chad Middendorf deferred comment to Cliff Ashburner, a Louisville attorney who has been involved in redeveloping the rickhouse since 2020 and now represents Bamboo.

“The current owner has spent a significant amount of time and resources redeveloping the property,” Ashburner said.

In July 2022, Bamboo applied for a “Certificate of Suitability” permit to allow alterations, including demolition, of a building designated as a local landmark. filing He cited “financial difficulties” as the reason for the demolition.

Louisville Metro Alderman for the 9th District, which includes Irish Hill, Bill Hollander, noted in an email the historic nature of Lickhouse, saying that the request for demolition was “a discussion (of economic hardship) and its investment and investment.” It is an opportunity to fully consider both redevelopment plans.” site. “

Bamboo hired various consultants to evaluate the building, but the findings indicated that there was no “pathway to profitable reuse of the building or financially rational renovation of the building,” the developer said. wrote as part of a filing with the city seeking the demolition of the rick house. .

KPFF Consulting Engineers of Louisville conducted an inspection and found structural problems that led them to conclude that the building was “unlikely to function beyond warehousing/storage and at occupied capacity,” with a “full-scale refurbishment and enhancement effort.” ‘ will take place, he added. Required to use the property for residential or office use.

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Missouri-based firm ARCO has offered Bamboo $5.175 million to use the rickhouse as a warehouse and $15.5 million to convert the building into apartments.

If the building is used as a warehouse, the rent will be close to $25 per square foot for a reasonable rate of return, well above the market average of $5 to $6.

Money aside, the developers claim that restoring the building will create a structure that is mostly new and no longer historic.

We love redevelopment and love bringing new history to old buildings but this did not qualify,” Dokovich said.

If the city approves the pending development request, Ashburner said Bamboo will purchase both the Lickhouse property and the Distillery Commons complex for an undisclosed amount.

A New Vision for Distillery Commons

Instead of warehouses, Dokovic said a building would “pay homage” to the flat rickhouse, complementing the remaining red-brick distillery commons.

Renderings show a four- to five-story structure incorporating redbrick and coaxially contoured similar to the current rickhouse.

Santos of the neighborhood association said her group has a clue about the development plan and is supporting the site’s new residential community. He said the preliminary design was promising and looked to be in harmony with the existing distillery commons complex.

“I know they put out something else,” she said. “But it’s not the same.”

If demolition is approved and the overall site plan is approved by the city, demolition could begin later this year, Dokovic said. The entire project is estimated to take him two years.

“I enjoy finding buildings with character and history and completely renovating them,” he said. “That’s exactly what happens at a distillery.”

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