Courier Journal Whiskey Row was once ‘left behind.’ Now it’s the tourism jewel of downtown. How it’s changed

Courier Journal Whiskey Row was once 'left behind.' Now it's the tourism jewel of downtown. How it's changed

Downtown Louisville’s Whiskey Row, once a bustling hub of the bourbon industry in the 1800s, faced decades of stagnation and challenges, including fires, economic downturns, and the pandemic. However, in recent years, it has undergone a significant transformation. Today, it stands revitalized with new establishments like Hotel Distill, restaurants, shops, and the entertainment venue, social hall Number 15. This resurgence was fueled by both public and private investments, with developments like the KFC Yum Center playing pivotal roles. The area now serves as a major tourist attraction, exemplifying the city’s rich bourbon heritage and showcasing a successful model for urban redevelopment. The article was authored by Matthew Glowicki for the Louisville Courier Journal.

Whiskey Row’s Transformation:
– 20 years ago, downtown Louisville’s Whiskey Row was largely empty.
– Historic buildings from the 1800s once showcased bourbon heritage.
– Today, it’s one of the busiest blocks downtown.
– Several new establishments have opened in the past two years, including Hotel Distill.
– Restaurants, shops, and a hotel have revitalized the historic buildings.
– The opening of entertainment venue, social hall Number 15, marked the last empty storefront’s restoration.

Challenges and Growth:
– The block faced challenges like the Great Recession, a devastating fire, and the coronavirus pandemic.
– Bourbon tourism is fueling investment downtown.
– Developer Valle Jones emphasizes the importance of public and private sector investment and time.

Historical Context:
– Over 100 years ago, bourbon was dominant on Whiskey Row.
– By 1905, the block was the heart of the bourbon industry.
– The advent of the automobile and Prohibition shifted the area’s commercial use.
– By the 1980s, the strip was mostly active at night.
– Hopes for revitalization in 1988 didn’t materialize.
– By the turn of the century, Whiskey Row was largely vacant.

Revitalization Efforts:
– The early 2000s saw developments like Waterfront Park and Louisville Slugger Field.
– The announcement of the KFC Yum Center in 2005 changed the block’s prospects.
– Developer Todd Blue’s plans to demolish buildings in 2010 faced opposition.
– An investment group acquired and preserved five of seven buildings in danger of demolition.
– A fire in 2015 nearly halted Whiskey Row’s revival.
– Old Forester Distilling Co. reopened in its original building from 1882-1919.
– Hotel Distil and Moxy Louisville Downtown opened in 2019.
– The opening of social hall Number 15 completed the historic row’s development.

Whiskey Row’s Current Role:
– Whiskey Row is now a major tourist destination.
– The block serves as a blueprint for future city transformations.
– The surrounding area, including restaurants and bars, has also developed.
– Developer Valle Jones reflects on her father’s vision for Whiskey Row.

Source: Article by Matthew Glowicki from the Louisville Courier Journal.


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