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  Home  Local News  Neighborhoods Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Old building to be reborn
Trio will renovate site at Sixth, Oak

Oak Seed Inc. is renovating the old Meuter building, 530 W. Oak St., into retail space and apartments. For more information, call Jeff Blanchard, 551-2699.
By Sheryl Edelen
The Courier-Journal

Three men are breathing new life into a 125-year-old building at Sixth and Oak streets with a renovation project that has them living on site and doing much of the work themselves.

Jeff Blanchard, Nathan Broom and Jon Coole, partners in the newly formed Oak Seed Inc. development firm, are transforming the old Meuter building in Old Louisville into retail and apartment space. The building had languished unused for more than 20 years, they said.

Blanchard, 27, Broom, 26, and Coole, 28, live in a two-story apartment facing Sixth Street. Blanchard, the project's designer, operates his design firm, Spatial/Static Design, in a ground-floor office.

The men estimate they'll spend about $85,000 for basic renovation.

Oak Seed will take on its first tenants next month, in a two-bedroom cottage facing Oak Street.

The men formed their partnership after meeting just over a year ago. Broom and Coole are Frisbee enthusiasts, and all three worked at The Bike Depot (formerly CBD Courier), a bicycle courier service downtown on Market Street.

All three said they were inspired by Jackie Green, the courier service's owner. As part of his vision for the operation, which has evolved into a bicycle super center that includes a coffee shop, retail bike shop and commuter bike services, Green is renovating a three-story building at the business's current location.

"Seeing that encouraged us," Broom said. "He turned it into a great building."

The men's work has drawn praise from Oak Street business owners.

Lee Jones, owner of Oak Hardware at Second and Oak streets, is glad to see younger neighborhood investors.

"I think Old Louisville needs some new blood and direction," he said. "We haven't done a great job of drawing too many young people to the area. Young people are going to draw what other young people need."

The Meuter building got its start in 1880. The developers said that they learned from Meuter family members, neighborhood residents and the University of Louisville archives that Frederick J. Meuter opened a bakery on the lower level in 1922. It had first housed doctors and dentists.

In 1928 Meuter, who had purchased the building, erected a carriage house in the rear and later connected it to the main building with a stucco annex. He leased the additional space to other businesses through the years, including a dry cleaner and beauty shop, while renting out upstairs space as apartments.

The bakery later became a full-sized restaurant and operated until the 1960s, when Meuter retired and leased the space first to the owner of Jack's Tavern and then to the owners of the Old Limerick Tavern.

The building was last used by Walter F. Meuter Customs Brokers. It remained vacant until the men purchased the property last year for $237,000 from Meuter's grandson (Walter Meuter's son), Craig Meuter.

Blanchard, a full-time designer, said the building's additions give its architecture a unique cobbled-together appearance. That, coupled with a love of the neighborhood and desire to contribute to the community make the renovation a worthwhile project, he said.

Broom is director of Supplies Over Seas, a nonprofit charity offshoot of the Jefferson County Medical Society that collects unused supplies from local doctors and hospitals and sends them to places in need around the world.

Coole works full time as a Web programmer for Vittitow Refrigeration. This gives us a chance to invest some energy and commitment to something worthwhile," Coole said.

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