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Landmark Status Denied For Old Louisville Water Company Building

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Efforts to have the old Louisville Water Company building designated as a local historic landmark failed Thursday to gain the support of the city's Historic Landmark and Preservation District Commission.

By a vote of 3-6, the commission opted to not credit the near 100-year old building as such a structure. There are about 80 local landmarks across the city.

The building sits on the site of the future Omni Hotel and Residences development. The old Louisville Water Company building is slated to be removed, though some sections will be put in storage for potential future use. Without the landmark status, developers appear poised to move forward with those plans.

Local preservationists have actively fought to keep the building at its Third Street site.

Jeff Mosley, the deputy director of Louisville Forward, told The Courier-Journal earlier this week a landmark designation could make proceeding with the Omni project much more difficult.

"It could even stop it," Mosley told the newspaper.

City officials had recommended that the commission deny the plea for landmark status. The recommendation stems from a report finding the building "marginally" met the criteria to be considered a local historic landmark, satisfying just three of nine criteria needed to be deemed a local landmark.

The report also concludes "no known significant historic events" are associated with the old Louisville Water Company building.

In recent months, preservationists argued the building should be saved due to the Louisville Water Company's pioneering efforts in water purification.

But the report from the city found "the work of the individuals who established the Louisville Water Company as a national innovator in the area of water delivery and purification treatment occurred prior to the construction of the Louisville Water Company building in 1910."

Additionally, the report found that no one associated with the old building "that contributed significantly to the culture and development of Louisville Metro, Jefferson County, the Commonwealth, or the Nation."

The report also said the best use of the downtown Louisville would be for the Omni project.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer offered the following written statement after the commission's vote:
"The Omni is a transformative project for downtown and a job generator -- 765 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs in what will be our city's biggest construction project outside the bridges project. I wish to thank the Landmarks Commission for its careful deliberation on this important case."

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.