In an unfortunate turn of events for revitalization efforts along Main Street, some of Louisville’s most iconic historic assets caught fire in what was ruled to be an accident. On July 7, firefighters battled into the morning hours against a 3-alarm blaze affecting three addresses that were part of a loft, retail, and office development. Though the fire is definitely a setback to redevelopment efforts on Main Street, it also illustrates just how much Louisville’s older buildings are valued not only as irreplaceable historic assets, but as key pieces of the city’s future.
As Stephanie K. Meeks penned in an op-ed last week, this is not the first time that Whiskey Row has faced adversity – nor will it be the last. Preservation is a movement in motion, and we must continually seek new solutions to threats from development pressure, accidents, and natural disasters. The key to our success will be in our ability to adapt – we are fighting to weave older buildings and neighborhoods into the vision of a vibrant, sustainable future so that when they are threatened, there is a shared understanding of the importance to step up and protect them.
At the Preservation Green Lab, our research has shown the value that older everyday buildings (like those that once stood all up and down West Main Street) contribute significantly to the unique quality of life that makes cities homes and neighborhoods special. It will be nearly impossible to build a strong local economy, engaged public, and healthy population without them. Our work in Louisville will continue to underscore these points so that the city can continue to grow and thrive on the foundation of its past. To quote Stephanie’s editorial, "The historic structures of this distinctive neighborhood are not just a reflection of Louisville's past – they are assets that can be leveraged to strengthen the city's economic future. This fire does not undermine their potential, or our resolve. A century and a half since its story began, Whiskey Row's future remains full of promise."