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New Owners Take Over Whiskey Row

A group of local investors who are planning a multi-million dollar renovation of the historic Whiskey Row buildings in downtown Louisville have officially taken ownership of the properties.Led by developers Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, the group purchased four of the buildings for $4.8 million from businessman Todd Blue, who had previously sought to demolish the 19th Century structures. Blue will retain control of two properties, but donated a fifth building to the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation which, in turn, contributed it to the investment group.The deal closed last Friday, and the investment team plans to move forward and renovate the buildings into a mixed-use development."We are excited about the opportunity to restore these Whiskey Row buildings into an innovative development," says Wilson, adding of the debilitated buildings will start soon. "Our community owes a big thanks to Mayor Fischer for leading the effort to save these buildings." Organized by the Downtown Development Corp., the investment team includes the Brown-Forman Corp and several civic-minded partners, however, many have wished to remain anonymous.The deal was brokered in large part from the efforts of local preservationists, who fought to salvage the buildings through petitions and the courts. Many criticized a deal made earlier this year between between Mayor Greg Fischer and Blue as one-sided.Seeking a compromise, the city sought other investors after making the deal with Blue and the mayor asked members of the Metro Council to rush a plan through to finalize a financial plan.The city has agreed to help stabilize the decaying buildings by investing $100,000 for every $1 million invested by the investment group, up to $1.5 million.Preservationist attorney Steve Porter says the deal wouldn’t have been made without the work of concerned residents who stood up to developers and city officials, but he believes the buildings are in better hands with new the investment team.“I think they can do better than Todd Blue would’ve done. I think they will be more cooperative with preservationists than Todd Blue ever would be," he says. "They’ve show their commitment to true preservation whereas Mr. Blue has shown his commitment to partial preservation or demolition."