Edison Park Lofts: Re-imagining Historic Louisville

| October 18, 2012

The latest addition to the ever-transforming Butchertown neighborhood might seem like it popped up out of nowhere – spacious, industrial-style lofts featuring exposed brick, metal beams and innovative sliding barn doors – but, much like the historic district itself, the bare bones of this newly-finished project lay hidden in plain sight for years, simply waiting for the right amount of polish.

Built in 1928 for the Wesley House, a local community center which provided childcare for working parents, the Mission Revival-era structure now known as Edison Park Lofts actually began its life as a gymnasium. The space for indoor children’s activities housed basketball hoops, a stage and unique spectator balconies high above the gym floor. Approximately 80 years later, the charitable organization had moved on and the old gym sat vacant and in disrepair, partially remodeled by owners who were unable to finish an ambitious project.

Identifying the cluttered, unused property as a diamond in the rough, Denton-Floyd Real Estate Group moved in, bringing along with them Cash Moter of Joseph & Joseph Architects.  Moter undertook not only to finish the abandoned remodel, but also to re-imagine the space in such a way that its unique historic features could be enhanced, rather than overlooked, in a new residential complex.

“These are the original hardwood floors,” explained the architect as he walked across the polished, blonde wooden beams that once lay inside the basketball court. “And they have catwalks, balconies, up here on either side. Spectators used to stand up here and watch the basketball games, so we kept all those, we’ve incorporated them on the bedroom side. …We’ve tried to work around all the existing lighting, the existing windows and keep as much of the light, airy feeling in the units as possible, and all the brick we’ve left exposed if we could. …And we left the structural trusses exposed, leaving all the historic elements, and incorporated them into the loft as best we could.”

The one- and two-bedroom, high-ceilinged lofts, 12 in all, certainly haven’t lost the feel of the original space, despite the addition of modern light fixtures and appliances, washer-dryer hookups, industrial metal-tracked sliding doors and  insulated, corrugated metal ceilings. Careful to adhere to national historic preservation standards, Moter even salvaged the large windows’ original metal safety grates, leaving them in spaces where current safety codes required barriers. The inventive architect found Denton-Floyd to be the perfect partner in his quest to strike a balance between luxurious modernity and classic character.

“I was able to get done what needed to be done, and done the right way,” he smiled. “They didn’t spare any expense. Economical, but still these are granite counter-tops and (top-of-the line) cabinets… They did the right things coming from an architecture standpoint, keeping the historic things and knowing the elements that they needed to spend a little extra money on. I often have to fight owners to do the fun things in a project, and I didn’t have to do that with this project.”

While the majority of the loft-style apartments showcase the instantly-recognizable, shiny basketball court floor, one of them offers a feature that is just as fun and perhaps even more unique. Three or four wooden steps lead visitors up and into the final living space, slightly raised, since it was built directly atop the gym’s original wooden stage. Another whimsical aspect of the apartment is its “staircase to nowhere,” the gymnasium’s original wooden stair which led up to the spectator balconies, now walled off at the top to create the perfect reading nook or just a clever shelf space. The carpeted apartment includes the same loft space as its neighbors, with the addition of an extra window, recreated to match the enormous latticed windows that take up nearly the entire north-facing wall in each unit. “We’re hoping we’re going to get a nice view for Thunder (Over Louisville) from here,” commented Denton-Floyd Marketing Manager, Michael Rose.

As the paint was still drying on the last unit’s newly-built window frame this past Monday, Shawn Willoughby, director of business development for Denton-Floyd Real Estate Group, made preparations for eager residents to begin moving in to their new homes. All but one of the lofts, which will rent for $1,300 to $1,500 a month, were quickly leased once prospective residents toured the first model, before the project had even been completed. “It’s just been easy – I could list 50 of these,” Willoughby enthused. “We didn’t market this at all… We did the Downtown Living Tour, so we had the model finished enough to do that, and then the rest of them were under construction and they were pretty rough – that was the middle of September. …We’re extremely exited, and I hope to have that last one leased (soon).”

While the Edison Park Lofts have nearly filled up, those who are just learning about the dynamic new Butchertown complex can still look forward to additional rental space on the property. Architect Cash Moter will soon begin work on “phase three,” a red brick, Victorian-style building that also once belonged to the Wesley House and will be transformed into two more apartments. The addition is expected to be completed in early 2013 and will offer a more classic, traditional look than the modern lofts, in keeping with its original appearance. Denton-Floyd also has plans to update the small greenspace directly behind the lofts, to establish the area as a local park. “It was the outdoor playground area for the Wesley house, and we’re going to keep it as a park for the neighborhood for the time being,” explained Mr. Rose. “It’s a way to give back to the neighborhood and be a part of the community, as opposed to a gated community.”

Added Moter, “It’s been kind of a labor of love, and it’s been a great experience. …They really came in here and filled a hole that Butchertown needed filled.”

The Edison Park Gymnasium Lofts rent for $1,300 to $1,500 per month, with only one unit still available. For information on other Denton-Floyd Real Estate Group projects or properties, contact Shawn Willoughby at 502.612.9987.

Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune

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