LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Call it a sign of the times: Workers removed the distinctive Falls City Theatre Equipment Co. neon sign from its longtime perch on Third Street on Thursday.

For years, the sign hung on the building of the same name just south of Muhammad Ali Boulevard. But initial work has started preparing the old Water Company block for a planned Omni hotel and apartment project.

An Omni spokeswoman did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday. Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer, said the project's architects and design team have visited Louisville and begun cataloging the block.

“They've started in earnest that process—what can be saved and what can't,” Poynter said.

As for the Falls City sign, “They do want it to be saved. That's one piece the Omni folks really, really like,” he said.

The $289 million Omni plan calls for a parking garage and grocery store in addition to the hotel and apartment tower. The company still needs several approvals before it can break ground and meet a scheduled 2018 opening.

In January, Mike Garcia, Omni's chief financial officer and senior vice president of acquisitions and development, said the company is in the "advanced" design stages but declined to speculate on the future of several historic buildings on the project site. The block, bounded by Second, Third and Liberty streets and Muhammad Ali, includes the old Morrissey Garage and the Falls City Theatre Equipment Co. building.

The nonprofit Preservation Louisville has placed the block on its list of “endangered” places. Marianne Zickuhr, the group's executive director, said Fischer's staff invited her to meet with Omni officials last month.

“I got an introduction and that -- in and of itself -- is more than what I've gotten in the past, so that makes me happy,” Zickuhr said.

Omni renderings made public last month don't appear to show the existing buildings on the site incorporated into the exterior of the proposed project, but Zickuhr said she was told by Omni officials those are a “placeholder.”

“Design-wise they are not in any way struck with anything,” she said.

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