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Preservation Louisville Encourages Followers To Attend City Budget Hearings

Whiskey Row/Iron Quarter (photo by Sheila Ash)Preservation Louisville is asking members and followers to take their concerns over the possible destruction of a strip of downtown buildings to the mayor’s public budget hearings.

The mayor’s office has agreed to let developer Todd Blue destroy the buildings at First and Main streets to make room for a parking lot and later a new development. The mayor has also agreed to set aside $450,000 in the new budget to help Blue preserve or recreate the facades.

Preservation groups have criticized the deal. They want it to go through the local landmarks commission, and hope the facades will be saved or that the buildings will be kept intact. Preservation Louisville director Marianne Zickuhr says she hopes like-minded Louisvillians will ask the mayor about the issue at the budget hearings.

“I’m hoping that in these open, community meetings, I feel like that would be the reason for having these types of meeting and I’m hoping we’ll get some productive resolution out of them,” she says. “I know there are others who are not, but I am extremely optimistic that we have a mayor who is open to hearing our views and definitely is going to allow us to express how we feel and what the facts are.”

The Metro Council could pull the $450,000 allocation out of the budget. The chair of the budget committee says the council has not been fully briefed on the issue, but adds that on the surface, it looks like a hard sell.

Blue and the city contend that the buildings are unsafe and cannot be preserved. For more on this story, see our previous coverage.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Preservation Group Asks Council To Question City’s Agreement With Blue

The chair of the Louisville Metro Council’s Budget Committee says the mayor’s request for funds to help preserve or recreate the facades of a strip of historic buildings is a hard sell.

The funding request will come in May, when the mayor presents his budget to the council. The request is part of a deal struck with developer Todd Blue. Blue has agreed to drop a lawsuit against the city in exchange for permission to destroy the buildings at First and Main streets. He will then be allowed to operate a parking lot on the site for five years while he plans a new development.

The mayor’s office has also agreed to help Blue preserve the buildings’ historic appearance, either by keeping the facades or recreating them on a new development. That will require a study and $450,000, which the council must approve.

Preservation groups have criticized the agreement, saying it was too secretive and that it will lead to the destruction of historic structures. The president of the board of Neighborhood Planning and Preservation sent a letter to the Metro Council Monday asking four questions:

  • On what authority did the mayor ignore the regulations and circumvent the process requiring public notification and input?
  • Why were the determinations of the Landmark’s Committee ignored and essentially overturned?
  • By law, “demolition by neglect” has consequences.  Why hasn’t Mr. Blue been held to the same standards as others who have been fined and/or incarcerated for similar offenses?
  • Should $450,000 of public funds be awarded to Mr. Blue to “attempt” to fix the buildings in a manner both parties (and the preservation community) believe won’t work?

Budget Committee Chair Marianne Butler says she has the same questions, and until she hears more information, she’s not sure whether she’ll support spending money on the deal.

“Where’s the money coming from? How is it going to be spent? Will the city have title to any piece of the property? Those details, we haven’t seen anything like that, and until we do, it isn’t prudent to give a yes or a no,” she says.

A spokesperson for the mayor says the city struck a deal with Blue because a judge could have ruled that the buildings be destroyed. The agreement was made in federal court, which trumps the landmarks commission. Blue and the mayor’s office both say the buildings can’t be saved, though Blue is offering to sell the buildings to anyone who wants to try to develop the property without destroying the original structures. Several preservationists have scoffed at his offer, saying he has raised the prices of the structures.

The agreement will be explained to the council sometime before the budget is introduced in May.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Protesters Gather On Whiskey Row

More than a dozen activists gathered at First and Main streets in downtown Louisville this morning.

They were protesting an agreement between Metro Government and developer Todd Blue which will allow Blue to destroy the buildings in three months to make room for a new development. Blue can also use the site as a parking lot for five years prior to building

The city has agreed to try to save the facades or preserve their appearance, but preservationists say that isn’t enough, and they take issue with the secrecy they say surrounded the bargain.

Blue, who owns the buildings, questions why preservation groups didn’t do more to save the buildings before he bought them. Further, he says if they want to save the strip, they can buy it from him. Martina Kunnecke with the group Neighborhoods, Planning and Preservation says that’s not realistic.

“We’re at a disadvantage because we’re generally not funded very well. There’s only so much we can do. We can yelp and scream, but it’s not until something major like this happens that the public will step forward and take notice of what’s going on,” she says.

Kunnecke says she and other preservationists are trying to figure out ways to block the demolition. They also scoff at Blue’s asking price for the buildings–$1.5 million each.

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Local News Next Louisville

Preservationists Planning Protest At Whiskey Row

Preservationists are planning to demonstrate outside of a strip of buildings at First and Main streets in Louisville Thursday morning.

They’re protesting an agreement between Metro Government and developer Todd Blue which will allow Blue to destroy the buildings in three months to make room for a new development.

The city has agreed to try to save the facades or recreate their appearance, but preservationists say that isn’t enough. They also say the mayor’s office didn’t do enough to gauge public opinion before striking a deal with Blue.

. Blue, who owns the buildings, questions why preservation groups didn’t do more to save the buildings before he bought them. Further, he says if they want to save the strip, they can buy it from him. Martina Kunnecke with the group Neighborhoods, Planning and Preservation says Blue is charging more for the buildings than he paid, and raising awareness of preservation issues can be difficult.

“We’re at a disadvantage because we’re generally not funded very well. There’s only so much we can do. We can yelp and scream, but it’s not until something major like this happens that the public will step forward and take notice of what’s going on,” she says.

Kunnecke says she and other preservationists are trying to figure out ways to block the demolition.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Fischer Defends Iron Quarter Agreement

by Sheila Ash

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is defending an agreement his office made with developer Todd Blue concerning a strip of crumbling historic buildings at First and Main streets.

Earlier this week, Blue agreed to drop a lawsuit against the city in exchange for permission to destroy the buildings and help preserving or rebuilding the facades. The agreement would make way for the Iron Quarter development. Preservationists have criticized Fischer for not being transparent in his decision to make the deal.

After cutting the ribbon on a new restaurant next to the Iron Quarter site, Fischer defended his decision to WFPL.

“It certainly was not a back room deal. It was done in the day of light and we have 90 days if somebody wants to have an alternative solution. What I was faced with was a potential emergency order by the court where the city would have lost all control over what happened to the Iron Quarter. I thought it would have been reckless to enter into that type of situation,” he says.

Both Blue and the city contend that the buildings are dangerous.

“Well we can’t find anybody to go inside the buildings and evaluate them because they’re not safe so safety is the number one issue,” says Fischer. “And then we have to understand what the potential developments for Iron Quarter are bring everybody to the table and hopefully something can happen there.  But Mr. Blue owns the property and he’s going develop it in a way that’s keeping with the character of downtown.”

Blue says there is no reasonable way to save the buildings in their entirety, but if anyone is willing to try, they can buy the strip from him in the next 90 days. He says no other developers are interested in the property.

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Local News Next Louisville

Blue Responds To Preservationists On Iron Quarter

An agreement between Metro Government and developer Todd Blue could save the facades of a strip of buildings at First and Main streets. But two local preservation groups say they are disappointed in the deal, though they would likely have to spend millions to stop it.

Blue has dropped a court action seeking to destroy the buildings in exchange for help from the city preserving or rebuilding the facades. Preservation groups want the buildings kept whole or a guarantee that the facades will be saved, not recreated.

“Well that’s not preservation at all,” says attorney Steve Porter with OPEN Louisville. “You don’t tear down something that’s 170 years old and…quote recreate it,” he says.

Preservationists are also criticizing the mayor for making the deal without public input.

But it’s not clear whether or how the groups can block the deal. The agreement would likely supersede the local landmarks commission and declare the buildings unsafe. Blue says if preservationists aren’t happy, they can take the seven buildings off his hands for $1.5 million each.

“If they care so much about the buildings and they’re so passionate about them, instead of filing petitions and instead of being obstructionists, then they have every opportunity, per this agreement with the city, to step forward and purchase the buildings,” says Blue.

Blue says he hasn’t received any offers from developers or preservationists for the buildings. He contends that the strip cannot be reasonably preserved whole. He says he wants to maintain the area’s historical appearance, but he also wants to develop downtown.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Preservation Groups Disappointed In Iron Quarter Agreement

Two groups of Louisville preservationists say they are not happy with Mayor Greg Fischer and developer Todd Blue’s settlement over the Iron Quarter project.

Blue has agreed to drop a lawsuit against the city in exchange for permission to raze a strip of buildings at First and Main streets. The city will also help him preserve or recreate the buildings’ facades for a new development.

Preservationist attorney Steve Porter with OPEN Louisville says he would like the buildings to be preserved in their entirety. Failing that, he supports keeping the facades. He takes issue with the possibility they could be destroyed, but replicated on new buildings.

“Well that’s not preservation at all. You don’t tear down something that’s 170 years old and…quote recreate it,” he says.

The group Preservation Louisville is also planning action. It’s unclear what that action will be, though, since the city’s agreement has not been made public. Until it is, it’s also unknown whether Blue will be able to bypass the Metro Landmarks Commission to raze the buildings. That would make any attempts by Preservation Louisville to block the deal more difficult. Porter says if the judge bypasses the commission, it will set a dangerous precedent.

“Anybody who has a landmark property who disagrees with the landmarks commission just files the lawsuit and makes a settlement behind the scenes with the mayor’s office,” he says.

Both Porter and Preservation Louisville have criticized the mayor for not being more open about the agreement. (See Preservation Louisville’s statement here.) A spokesperson for the mayor says action was needed on the matter quickly. Blue says he’s dedicated to preserving the facades if possible, but is most concerned with safety.

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Local News

Preservation Louisville on Iron Quarter Settlement

Members of Preservation Louisville are reviewing the settlement over the Iron Quarter buildings and will release a statement today.

Louisville Metro Government and developer Todd Blue reached an agreement over the future of the historic but dilapidated buildings along east Main Street yesterday.

Blue wanted to destroy the buildings at First and Main to make room for a hotel and restaurant development. Metro Government officials wanted to preserve at least part of the buildings.

On Monday, Blue agreed to drop his lawsuit against the city over the matter in exchange for help preserving the facades.

The agreement gives Blue permission to demolish the buildings in 90 days. During that time, Blue and city officials will research the best method of either preserving the existing facades or building replicas of them.

Preservation Louisville supports saving the buildings in their entirety, not just the facades.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Agreement Allows Blue To Demolish Iron Quarter Buildings

by Sheila Ash

Louisville Metro Government and developer Todd Blue have reached an agreement over the future of several historic but dilapidated buildings along east Main Street.

Blue was seeking to destroy the buildings at First and Main to make room for a hotel and restaurant development called the Iron Quarter. Metro Government officials wanted to preserve at least part of the buildings.

On Monday, Blue agreed to drop his lawsuit against the city over the matter in exchange for help preserving the facades. Mayor’s spokesperson Chris Poynter says the County Attorney’s office recommended the settlement as the best chance to save any part of the buildings.

“We were very concerned that the judge was going to allow Mr. Blue to demolish the buildings without any potential efforts to save the facades so we felt it was very important to reach this compromise and hopefully save these facades for future generations,” says Poynter.

According to the agreement, Blue has permission to demolish the buildings in 90 days. During that time, Blue and city officials will research the best method of either preserving the existing facades or building replicas of them.

Mayor Fischer will ask the Metro Council to approve $450 thousand in the upcoming budget to pay for the project.

Members of Preservation Louisville are reviewing the agreement and will likely release a statement Tuesday. The group supports saving the buildings in their entirety, not just the facades

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State of Affairs

Preservation Law

Who doesn’t love the look of historic areas like Cherokee Triangle and the Iron Quarter? They both bring out the personality of our city and bring in tourism. But how are these sites saved and preserved in the first place? In reality, it’s a continuing behind-the-scenes battleground between many differing stakeholders. Join us Tuesday as we discuss preservation law and what it means for Louisville.  Photo by Joel Neild

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