LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - History and progress went head to head on June 28 when a Metro commission voted to make Whiskey Row a historic landmark in downtown Louisville. The vote came after meeting lasting nearly 2 1/2 hours debating the buildings' significance.
"Once they're gone, they're gone," said Nick Morris of the Louisville Historical League.
At issue are several historic buildings in the 100 block of West Main Street known as Whiskey Row. The buildings are now abandoned and falling apart, but 150 years ago they housed Kentucky's bourbon industry.
"Architecturally, they're also spectacular collection of iron front buildings," said Carolyn Brooks, a historic preservation consultant.
During the June 28 meeting, the Landmark Commission heard from people concerned that the buildings would be torn down.
"I think sometimes buildings can be rehabbed and rescued rather than torn down," Brooks said.
Developer Todd Blue had asked the city for an emergency demolition request. That request was rejected this spring.
"Our primary concern of the buildings is safety," said Blue.
Blue's plans would save the facade that's unique to the Iron Quarter, but knock down rest of the buildings.
"I'm trying to be pro-active and progressive about the safety of human life, which I've placed a higher value than the so called historic preservation of the buildings," said Blue.
That is what a lawsuit filed June 25 claims. The suit says the city must follow its own ordinances for dilapidated buildings and give Blue permission to demolish the safety hazard. For some, saving the facade at the very least is the key.
"When you look at what's been done further down on Main Street, in the 6, 7, 800 block, I think it's really critical and important we take every effort to try to save those buildings," Morris said.
The landmark designation doesn't mean the buildings can't be torn down. It does mean blue will have to get approval of a Metro committee and the Waterfront Development Corporation to move forward for his multi-million dollar development that includes a hotel using the historic building facades.