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Hearings Set on Proposed Changes to Landmarks Ordinance

The Louisville Metro Council has scheduled two public hearings on proposed changes to the landmarks ordinance.

Democratic Councilman David Yates is proposing significant changes to the law, which allows citizens to petition the Landmarks Commission for protected status for a building or monument. Preservationists argue that Yates’ amendments favor developers and undermine the system of protecting the city’s history.

The first public hearing will be held March 13 in the Metro Council chambers at City Hall. The second hearing is April 3 at the UAW Local 862 hall on Fern Valley Road.

Anyone who is unable to speak at the hearings will be allowed to submit written testimony for inclusion in the record.

Democratic council members Tina Ward-Pugh and Tom Owen have come out against the legislation.

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Here and Now Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Yates’s Landmark Ordinance Tabled for More Public Input

The Louisville Metro Council Planning and Zoning committee has tabled an amendment to the landmarks ordinance proposed by Councilman David Yates, D-25, which would make significant changes to the city’s land development code.

The current ordinance requires residents to gather at least 200 signatures to petition the Landmarks Commission for protected status for a building or monument. In Yates’s amended version, however, 102 of the signatures would have to come from people who live or own property within a one-mile radius of the proposed historical site.

Further changes would give the council final say on any landmark designations, but preservationists argue the proposed guidelines threaten historic buildings and favor developers.

Yates says the Landmarks Commission does important work, but the council should have more oversight.

“The Landmarks Commission is appointed by the mayor and therefore not held accountable by the constituents. While they do great work, we respect them and we need them…I think there should be oversight and there should also be a forum for constituents and neighborhoods who are affected to be able to voice their concerns to an open body,” he says.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Panel To Consider Landmark Status For Kenwood Drive-In

The Louisville Metro Historic Landmarks and Preservation District Commission is expected to decide Thursday whether to grant landmark status to the 62-year old Kenwood Drive-In in south Louisville.

The designation would require the property’s owner to get permission from the city before altering or tearing down any structures on the property. It’s being sought by the Iroquois Civic Club and Neighborhood Association.

The Kenwood has been closed since 2008, when it was put up for sale by its owner, National Amusements.

The company says it’s opposed to any designation that could affect the sale of the property.

The Kenwood opened in 1949 off Southside Drive. It’s Louisville’s last standing drive-in theatre.

The landmarks commission will meet Thursday at 8:30am.

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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.”

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Local News Next Louisville

Group Seeks Designation For Kenwood Drive-In

The Iroquois Civic Club and Neighborhood Association in south Louisville is hoping officials will approve its request this month to grant landmark status to the 62 year old Kenwood Drive-In.

The Metro Historic Landmarks and Preservation District Commission will consider the application at its August 18th meeting.

The designation would require the drive-in’s owner to seek the commission’s approval before altering or tearing down structures on the property.

City preservation officer Richard Jett says there are no other drive-ins left standing in Louisville.

“Ultimately, there were nine such drive-ins, but this is the last one in Jefferson County. There’s one (nearby) in Indiana, but this is the last one,” he said.

The Kenwood opened in 1949 and closed in late 2008, when its owner, National Amusements, put the property up for sale.

Jett says no one spoke publicly against the designation at a commission hearing in June, but National Amusements spokeswoman Rachel Lulay said in a statment that “as it is for sale, we would be opposed to any designation that would make it difficult to sell the property. We would sell the property to anyone who would be interested in operating a drive-in theatre or for any other use approved by the city and county.”

Jett says there is precedent elsewhere for similar designations.

“I know that there have been others that have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places, because they represent such a unique aspect of post World War II culture that was dominated by the automobile.”

(Photos, from top: Kenwood marquee; the drive-in’s present screen; original concrete block screen, from a Courier-Journal photo taken just before the 1949 opening. These and other photos are in the Metro Historic Landmarks and Preservation District Commission’s Kenwood Drive-In Designation Report.

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In-Depth News Local News Next Louisville Politics

Effort Underway To Preserve Louisville’s Iconic Shotgun Houses

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Early next month, a panel of preservationists will select a house in Louisville to be rehabilitated under a new project called Preservation S.O.S.—Save Our Shotguns.

It’s a style of house that symbolizes many of Louisville’s older neighborhoods.

There are many variations, but shotgun houses typically have a long, rectangular floor plan: one room wide, three to five rooms in a row with doorways often on the same side of the house.

One common belief is that the name shotgun house refers to the ability to fire a shotgun cleanly from the front through the back door.

The shotgun style likely made its way into the U.S. from the West Indies and became popular in the South during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, offering affordable housing in working class areas.

In Louisville, they’re a part of the fabric of neighborhoods like Germantown, Butchertown, Smoketown and Portland, but some are showing their age, and Portland in particular has a significant number of houses in distress (top two photos).

“In this area, you’re seeing a lot of blight when it comes to vacant properties, many of which are the shotgun houses, and I think that’s what inspired me to try to come forward and do something and start a program that would really make an impact,” said Marianne Zickhur, executive director of Preservation Louisville, which is spearheading the S.O.S. program. Zickhur grew up in the Portland neighborhood.

Zickhur and says shotguns are popular as starter homes for many young buyers. Others like how their simple design lends itself to fix-up and addition projects.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Council Approves Whiskey Row Deal

Receiving additional assurances from Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration, the Louisville Metro Council approved an emergency ordinance that allocates $1.5 million to help preserve a strip of 19th Century buildings downtown.

Earlier this week, the mayor brokered a deal with local developers Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown to purchase four of the seven historic Whiskey Row buildings along Main Street from businessman Todd Blue for $4.8 million.

On Thursday morning, the mayor’s office provided city lawmakers with an outline of a financial plan to save the historic block, however, council Republicans hesitated before agreeing to waive council rules to approve the emergency measure.

Initially, Metro Government agreed to use a city grant to salvage the structures, but Council President Jim King, D-10, proposed making the expenditure a loan that would forgive $100,000 in taxpayer dollars for every $1 million of private money invested in the project.

Members of the Fischer administration then met with the GOP caucus to explain additional details of the agreement, saying investors may back out of the deal if a vote wasn’t made by Thursday.

In the end, council Republicans agreed to support the measure in a bipartisan 19-to-1 vote despite their earlier misgivings about the process.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Council Receives ‘Fact Sheet’ on Whiskey Row Deal

Hours before the Louisville Metro Council meets to vote on an emergency ordinance to preserve a strip of 19th Century buildings downtown, the mayor’s office has provided members with an outline of the financial plan to save the historic block. But Republican members say they are still unwilling to support waiving council rules to approve an emergency ordinance until more details are made available.

On Monday, Mayor Greg Fischer announced that local developers Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, along with several anonymous investors, would purchase four of the seven buildings from businessman Todd Blue for $4.8 million.

Initially, Metro Government agreed to put up a $1.5 million grant to salvage the structures, but Council President Jim King, D-10, proposed making the expenditure a forgivable loan that would match private money invested in the project.

The mayor’s office and sponsors of the emergency ordinance argue the loan needs to be approved quickly because the “structures currently present an immediate threat to the public” due to their dilapidated condition.

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Local News Next Louisville

$4.8 Million Deal Will Save Whiskey Row Buildings

A deal has been made to save the Whiskey Row buildings in downtown Louisville.

Through a previous agreement between Mayor Greg Fischer and owner Todd Blue, the seven buildings were slated to be demolished to make room for a parking lot, then a new development. Preservationists fought to salvage the buildings, and Metro Government then sought investors to buy them from Blue.

Those investors have been found in a team organized by the Downtown Development Corporation. Developers of the 21C Museum-Hotel Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, along with several anonymous investors will purchase four of the buildings for $4.8 million. Blue will donate an additional building and retain two for himself.

Wilson says he’s not sure what the buildings will be used for, but five will remain standing.

“We have 60 days to close and we’ll begin studying right away,” he says. “The first task at hand is stabilizing the building and once we feel comfortable about that, we’ll turn our attention to the purposes and uses of the buildings.”

The facades of the two buildings Blue will keep will remain standing, and Blue plans to build a new development behind them. He will also receive an adjoining parking lot for one dollar.

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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.