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Efforts Begin To Find New Uses For Louisville's Dismantled Buildings

Amid city efforts to develop a system for reusing elements of historical buildings, stakeholders and city officials met Monday to discuss potential uses for preserved parts of the old Board of Trade building.

The group included Metro development officials, preservation advocates, residents and a stone mason. Most of the Board of Trade building was demolished in the 1970s.

It was the first in a string of meetings designed to develop a "historical management protocol" for all older structures, said Cynthia Johnson, the city's chief preservation officer.

Louisville Metro has elements of the Board of Trade building in storage, as well as pieces of buildings that once stood on the block that now is home to the Marriott Downtown, Johnson said. Officials are hoping to deliver a list of recommendations for reuse of portions of the Board of Trade building to Mayor Greg Fischer soon.

"How do we reuse them in a meaningful way that the community will still have a connection to," she said.

The effort comes as preservationists bemoan what might become of the old Louisville Water Company building on Third Street, at the site of the proposed Omni Hotel & Residences.

Those who attended Monday's meeting enthusiastically traded ideas for reusing the remains of the Board of Trade building, though city officials aren't sure what exactly remains of the structure, Johnson said. Chunks of the building are heaped in a pile at the Metro police impound lot near River Road.

Ideas ranged from incorporating the largely limestone blocks into new construction along the Louisville waterfront, to using the stone for public art projects or as a catalyst to create a museum of city history.

Still, some expressed skepticism that the effort's spinning wheels would ever move forward.

"We've been a part of too many exercises like this that turned out to be empty and window-dressing," said Martina Kunnecke, president of the nonprofit group Neighborhood Planning and Preservation, which advocated for preservation of the old Water Company building.

She said meetings like this are often a guise that do little to enact real change in the community.

"It's a way to use the public by saying the public was involved, and then at the end of the day, the ideas that came from the public are nowhere to be seen," she said.

Anyone is invited to attend the meetings. The next one will be sometime in January. Johnson said she intends to bring with her an accurate inventory of what remains of the Board of Trade building.

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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