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University of Louisville Buys, Plans to Eventually Demolish, Silos Near Campus

The  silos that have for years signaled to Interstate 65 travelers that they are in the midst of the University of Louisville have been sold.Purchased by UofL for the price of $3.3 million, the silos will most likely be demolished to make way for the expanding Belknap campus, university officials said.The silos and adjoining industrial property serves no practical purpose for the University’s Master Plan, UofL spokesman Mark Hebert said.Since 1998, in conjunction with the opening of Papa John’s Stadium, the structures have been adorned with banners that attracted eyes looking for a view of campus. That view, however, was blocked by the 22 imposing silos.“They are a bit of an eyesore,” Hebert said.The silos have given motorists on I-65 the idea that the area surrounding UofL’s Belknap Campus is an industrialized, manufacturing area, he said.“It doesn’t look like a college campus,” Hebert said. “Once we get those silos down, folks will have a great view of the University of Louisville Belknap campus that, as most people know, has been totally transformed in the past couple of years.”University officials have had their eye on the property on South Floyd Street for a long time.Hebert said no construction plans have been set. The current priorities are finalizing the sale of the property and generating funding for demolishing the structures presently on the property.The property was purchased with funds from the UofL Foundation and Hebert said the financial burden of redeveloping the area will also be on the foundation. But he hasn’t ruled out other options for getting rid of the silos and plant.“If Steven Speilberg comes to us tomorrow and says, ‘Hey I want to make an action film and want to blow something up and demolish something,’ we will raise our hand,” Hebert said.Tom Owen, a Metro Council member and Louisville historian, said the silos have been a staple in the city’s industrial skyline for more than 60 years.Owen said the acquisition of the property at 2441 S. Floyd St. is more important than acreage.“It is exposure and visibility that is being acquired,” said Owen, an archivist for UofL. “Whatever building is built there gives the university an additional face to a very heavily traveled corridor.”The property has been the site of industrial endeavors since the early 1900s, most commonly processing cottonseed and soybeans, Owen said. Ownership has changed hands numerous times. Under control of Ralston-Purina, the site was largely responsible for the 1981 Sewer Explosion in Louisville, when a toxic hexane gas leak resulted in nearly two miles of sewer pipe exploding beneath 12th Street and the surrounding area.The UofL Foundation also today approved funding for $2.8 million to purchase property at 204 E. Market St. for a planned extension of the Nucleus program. The property is owned by the Dulworth family. The details of the deal are still in negotiation and nothing has yet been been finalized.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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