New Life on Whiskey Row

The bottom line on Whiskey Row was always about one thing — making a deal with Todd Blue.


And what a deal he got. Today the city announced a deal that will preserve the facades on all seven buildings along Whiskey Row on Main Street.  A group of investors led by Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown saved the day, spending $4.85 million to make Blue go away and getting the city involved (to the tune of $1.5 million) along with the Downtown Development Corporation.

Blue bought the seven buildings for $4.3 million back in 2007 with plans to develop the property with office and retail. But when he abandoned that plan, he was left with the properties and no better plan to use them. He announced plans to demolish them, unless a buyer came forward, invoking the ire of the preservationist community. Initially he was demanding $15 million for the properties, according to sources.

So he made a deal in February with Mayor Greg Fischer, who was roundly criticized for the deal he made with Blue. A contract that would have allowed Blue to start smashing facades expired over the weekend, and the new deal was announced today.

And today everyone’s happy, thanks to the new investors.

Of course no one is happier than Blue, who held all the cards and leveraged a pretty nice deal for himself. For his $4.3 million 2007 investment, he gets $4.85 million for the sale of four properties, plus he keeps the two westernmost buildings. And he gets a vacant lot at Main and Floyd for a dollar. And he gets 50 parking spaces in a city garage at First and Main.

And he got the Mayor to treat him like a hero, announcing that Blue was donating one of the buildings. “Though some people have in recent months criticized Todd, he helped seal the deal and by donating one of the properties he is showing his dedication to preservation,” Fischer said in the press conference.

The real heroes, backed by Brown-Forman money (naming rights for one of the buildings was worked into the agreement by Brown-Forman), simply had to put up the money to keep the cranes from crushing a big part of the city’s history.

“We don’t care how the money was raised, the important thing is the building won’t be razed,” said Steve Porter, the attorney representing preservationists, after today’s announcement.

Concerns about the viability of the buildings, which Blue had said during the process were not suitable for saving, are apparently salvageable, and it’s presumed the new owners will be getting to work on developing the buildings for retail and office space.