LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A deteriorating and vacant warehouse at Distillery Commons doesn’t meet Metro government guidelines for demolition, a new planning report says.

The three-story former rickhouse is a key part of a redevelopment plan from Missouri-based Bamboo Equity Partners, which wants to tear down the 19th-century building that once stored bourbon barrels and replace it with a five-story structure with apartments and commercial space.

Bamboo Equity sought city permission to raze the Nelson Distillery Rickhouse in July as part of a two-fold proposal that also would renovate the adjacent Distillery Commons complex. The Individual Landmarks Architectural Review Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to consider the request.

But ahead of that meeting, city planning staff are recommending the committee deny the proposed demolition because the building on the National Register of Historic Places is not an “imminent threat to life or property,” as current rules require.

The report submitted last Friday acknowledges that there has been “severe deterioration” likely brought on by deferred maintenance and lack of use.

During a visit to the Irish Hill site this month, a WDRB reporter observed vegetation atop the building’s roofline. Part of the roof was completely missing; the sky could be seen by looking in first-floor windows along Lexington Road.

On the side of the building facing Payne Street there are 16 second- and third-story windows. None was intact.

The rickhouse is owned by Barrel House Lofts LLC, which purchased the building from Kinetic Corp. in 2014. It has been vacant since 1979, according to city records.  

The planning report highlighted damage to the building. It noted that an internal ricking system that provides structural support has “rotted” and lost a “large number” of cross supports, while a previous attempt to repair mortar on the building’s exterior used “inappropriate mortar mix” and likely contributed to water damage.

“To adaptively reuse the building, the entire rick system would need to be removed as it fills every square foot,” wrote Bradley Fister, Planning & Design Coordinator. “Once the rick system is removed, the building’s historic integrity is threatened.”

Despite the recommendation, the review committee could determine that the demolition request is proper.

If that happens, the report says, the design of the new structure that would replace the rickhouse is “generally not in conflict” with neighboring buildings, and its brick color and façade are “reminiscent of the building currently on the site.”

Planners would support the new construction if Bamboo Equity meets a number of conditions, such as supporting a local designation of the nearby Distillery Commons buildings and paying for a Kentucky Historical Society historical marker in front of the rickhouse.

If the review committee doesn’t approve the demolition request, Bamboo Equity has signaled it could seek to demolish the building under an “economic hardship exemption.”

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