Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Public Works Begins Replacement of City Hall Fire Escape

The Louisville Metro Public Works Department is giving a highly-visible feature of City Hall a makeover Thursday with a new exterior stair tower that will replace the old fire escape.

Costing about $400,000, the steel construction is expected to be completed by early next year. But city officials promise the project upgrades will maintain the structure’s historical look of the emergency escape, which was built during the 1940s.

From the mayor’s office:

The tower will consist of four large steel columns with a steel cap reminiscent of City Hall’s cornice. It will also reflect details of the historic building’s limestone architecture and features decorative glass panels. The stair tower will be completely freestanding, with landings projecting to the building’s edge.

The central tower will be painted to match the building’s limestone while the staircase will be painted to match its historic wrought iron.

It was designed by Metro Public Works, Sullivan & Cozart and Studio Kremer Architects to meet current codes while incorporating historic landmark requirements.

The project also includes replacing the sidewalk and curb at the corner of 6th Street and Congress Alley.

The only bad side is that the construction will close the west side of 6th Street to traffic until work is completed, which will force local media crews to find alternative parking.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

New Owners Take Over Whiskey Row

A group of local investors who are planning a multi-million dollar renovation of the historic Whiskey Row buildings in downtown Louisville have officially taken ownership of the properties.

Led by developers Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, the group purchased four of the buildings for $4.8 million from businessman Todd Blue, who had previously sought to demolish the 19th Century structures. Blue will retain control of two properties, but donated a fifth building to the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation which, in turn, contributed it to the investment group.

The deal closed last Friday, and the investment team plans to move forward and renovate the buildings into a mixed-use development.

“We are excited about the opportunity to restore these Whiskey Row buildings into an innovative development,” says Wilson, adding of the debilitated buildings will start soon. “Our community owes a big thanks to Mayor Fischer for leading the effort to save these buildings.”

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Officials Hope Downtown Coin Boxes Deter Panhandling

A new program in downtown Louisville allows people to put their spare change in several coin boxes rather than give the money to panhandlers.

The program is called “Positive Change” and the money collected in the blue containers will help fund area homeless groups. But city officials and downtown boosters hope it will also discourage panhandlers by drying up their source of revenue.

Louisville Downtown Management District spokesman Ken Herndon says the majority of people asking for money are not homeless.

“We know basically who the regular people are that we see on the street. And for the most part the folks who are panhandling are either feeding a substance abuse problem or they’re just taking your money and putting it in their pocket. And so what we want to do is try to give a conduit through which a very generous public can make sure their well-intended dollars are going to the people they intend them to serve,” he says.

Supporters say downtown workers and visitors will be more inclined to stick their change in the box, and less likely to hand it out to panhandlers. Downtown Management District employees will collect the money from the boxes weekly.

For the full interview see below.

Audio MP3

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Whiskey Row Ordinance Deemed Emergency

Members of the Louisville Metro Council have introduced an emergency ordinance to spend $1.5 million to salvage the historic Whiskey Row buildings and are considering suspending council rules to allow a vote Thursday.

The sponsors of the bill say Mayor Greg Fischer has promised a memorandum of understanding to explain the deal before voting, but some city lawmakers worry the council is rushing to pass a bill before seeing any details of the development agreement first.

Minutes before Fischer announced a plan to save the 19th Century buildings, the mayor’s office sought bipartisan support for the legislation, but balked when asked to show specifics of the contract.

Councilman Glen Stuckel, R-17, says the Fischer administration would not share any contents of the deal made between Metro Government, businessman Todd Blue and a group of local investors, who have agreed to purchase four of the seven buildings for $4.8 million.

“The details are pretty important,” says Stuckel. “The word I got from the mayor’s office was that I would probably be able to see the ordinance on Thursday morning. They’d have it ready by then. And I asked if it would contain the details and they said, ‘well, pretty much the details are what’s printed in the paper’ and I said I’d like to read it first.”

Local News

DDC Releases ‘State of Downtown’ Report

Comparing Louisville to its competitor cities, the Downtown Development Corporation unveiled the first ever “State of Downtown” report to measure the city’ s benchmarks in a number of key areas.

Defined by the 40202 zip code, researchers showed that Louisville had 12 percent increase among downtown workers over the past decade, the largest among peer cities such as Charlotte, Indianapolis and Nashville.

Despite job growth during the national recession, downtown lags behind and is well below average in housing and retail stores.

Local News

Parts of River Road Closed Due to Flooding

The mayor’s office has announced that due to rising waters from the Ohio River, River Road from 4th to 8th Street has been closed to traffic.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Preservationists Allowed to Join Whiskey Row Case

A group of preservationists and a local property owner have been added to a federal lawsuit between Louisville Metro Government and businessman Todd Blue concerning the Whiskey Row buildings along Main Street.

U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn signed an order Friday that allows DKH Properties, a neighboring business, and four non-profit organizations to intervene in the suit as defendants. The judgement says their “views could be helpful in reaching any decisions” as the “controversy simmers over the fate of seven West Main Street” buildings.

Attorney Stephen Porter says preservationists are pleased to have a seat at the table.

Local News Next Louisville

Tandy Seeks Downtown Grocery Store to Fill Borders Space

A Louisville lawmaker wants to keep retail in 4th Street Live.

The Borders bookstore will soon be closed. It’s an anchor tenant in the entertainment district and one of the few places to shop in the area.

Metro Councilman David Tandy, who represents the bulk of downtown, says the city has a number of options to fill the soon-to-be-empty space.

“Obviously retail is one where you’re looking at another store of some type coming down to that area. Also, I’m interested in trying to pursue a grocery store in the area so that that would continue to spur development and living in the downtown area,” he says.

The Baltimore-based Cordish Company handles the 4th Street Live lease for Borders, and the city is working with the developer to fill the space. Last month, Mayor Greg Fischer met with Cordish officers to discuss finding a new tenant.

Tandy plans to draft a formal letter to the mayor and Cordish to share his goal of bringing a retail store to downtown either in the Borders location or elsewhere.