Louisville Skyline (Drone)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Downtown Louisville is starting to look like it did before the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to close and protests forced owners of those businesses to board up their windows.

For several months, windows up and down Fourth Street, Muhammad Ali Boulevard and other downtown streets have been covered with boards as people prepared for the worst. But this week, a lot of those boards are coming down, and business owners are prepared to welcome back employees and customers.

"We knew that despite the boards, despite the disruption and despite the fact that some of the streets were blocked, that we would see brighter days ahead," said Jim Allen, vice chairman of Baird Financial. 

Before joining Baird, Allen was the CEO of Hilliard Lyons. Last year, the two financial giants merged, so Allen is familiar with the downtown Louisville business district and its history.

"It was disheartening to see downtown Louisville boarded up," he said. "We always knew that it was temporary."

Allen said the company is showing its commitment to strengthening downtown Louisville by spending $25 million to renovate the top five floors of its new home.

"Our goal is to be part of the solution and put a stake in the ground around downtown," he said.

Metro Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith, represents the area, said nearly 90 businesses have removed boards. There are still a few businesses covered with boards, but Sexton Smith said she hopes they'll all be gone soon.

"I am encouraging people to come downtown and use curbside pickup to support our world-class restaurant scene," she said.

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