Louisville Metro Housing Authority will pull together its savings and money from Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government to buy the former First Link Discount Foods just outside of downtown.
The Metro Housing Authority operates Dosker Manor, a housing facility for senior and disabled citizens, across the street from First Link, as well as the Liberty Green housing site, which is just down the street.
“We have a history of trying to protect our boundaries, and our greatest fear was something would end up on our site that was not great,” said Tim Barry, executive director of Louisville Metro Housing Authority. “I want to be very careful about what might appear on that site.”
The authority agreed to buy the First Link property for $3 million from owners Bruce Silverman and Robin Silverman. It will take $2.7 million out of its reserves and pay the difference using an allocation from Metro Government. Barry added that Louisville Metro Housing Authority was able to talk down the price.
“He was well north of $3 million,” Barry said.
For now, the authority will secure and maintain the site; the future is wide open.
“We are open to any kind of options,” Barry said, when asked if Louisville Metro Housing Authority would sell the property, lease the building or look to develop the land itself.
He noted that another grocery store would be nice and serve tenants of nearby properties.
Most intriguing to Barry himself is the Fehr’s Brewery Rathskeller located underneath the First Link’s parking lot. According to previous owners, the former drinking spot was preserved in case someone wanted to redevelop it. Barry said he is interested to see if it could be saved.
“It would be very nice to salvage that,” he said.
Up until this year, First Link Discount Foods had operated at 431 E. Liberty St. since 1986. Besides the Kroger store on South Second Street, it was the only grocery store within 2 miles of downtown.
The Silvermans said they were ready for retirement.
“My husband has been in the grocery business working seven days a week since he was a teenager,” property owner Robin Silverman told Insider Louisville in an email. “This is definitely going to be a new chapter!”
The couple tried to sell the property back in 2015, first listing it for $8.9 million and then dropping the asking price to $4.9 million. Following unsuccessful attempts to sell the property, the Silvermans planned to auction the property earlier this year. The auction was called off after a party — which we now know was Louisville Metro Housing Authority — expressed interest in buying it.
“They were extremely interested in the property, and the purchase price they offered was acceptable to us,” she said in the email when asked why they opted to sell to the Metro Housing Authority. Silverman said she wasn’t sure if they would have fetched a higher or lower price at auction.
The authority hasn’t closed on the property yet, but Barry is hopeful the sale will be a done deal within the next month.
In addition to the land and the building, the Silvermans estimated there is more than $4.5 million worth of equipment in the store’s USDA-approved meatpacking facility, located in the basement of the building. That equipment was not part of the sale and will be auctioned off by the Silvermans.