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Local News Politics

Fischer Appoints Planning and Design Services Director

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has appointed a new director of Planning and Design Services, filling a long-vacant position in a department in need of a turnaround.

The last director resigned under former Mayor Jerry Abramson, who left the position open. The department was among the first to be looked at in Fischer’s review of city agencies, and the subsequent report uncovered what it called “systemic problems” and delays in zoning and development rulings.

Fischer has now appointed certified planner Phil Bills to lead the department.

“Well there are several things [in the review] that need to be addressed early on. I’m just going to have to sit down and look at them and figure out which one has the highest priority,” says Bills.

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Local News Next Louisville

Preservationists Cheer Delay of Whiskey Row Demolition

Preservationists have won a small victory in the fight to save the Whiskey Row buildings in downtown Louisville.

Under an agreement between the buildings’ owner, Todd Blue, and Metro Government, the strip could’ve been razed as early as Monday. But that’s been blocked so a judge can hear arguments on Wednesday over whether to push the demolition back another two months.

Preservationist attorney Steve Porter says he’d like that to happen, but when the judge set the hearing date, he also gave the preservationists the ability to keep fighting the demolition, even if the delay is denied.

“We will get at least seven days advanced notice before a demolition order is issued and we would have at least seven days after the issuance of the order before anything would actually happen,” he says.

The advance notice would give Porter the ability to appeal the demolition order.

“That would be first to the Board of Code Enforcement, who is the appeal board for emergency demolition orders and then if we don’t like what they say, or if they refuse to hear us or something, then we can go to Jefferson Circuit Court,” he says.

Porter says long enough delays could give an outside party enough time to purchase the strip from Blue. The city is currently seeking investors who will buy the buildings and save them. Mayor’s spokesperson Chris Poynter says there are several interested parties.

“As always, we’ve been going on two routes: one route with Todd Blue for the demolition of the buildings and the other route with the potential buyer. Unfortunately, at this point, we haven’t made any movement toward a resolution,” he says.

Poynter adds that the mayor’s office has no objections to the advance notice. Blue did not return a request for comment.

Preservationists will also be issued a copy of a report that examines whether the buildings are structurally sound.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Preservationists Seek Change in Whiskey Row Case

A group of preservationists and a local property owner are hoping to intervene in the federal court case concerning the Whiskey Row buildings at First and Main streets.

The faction filed paperwork Friday asking Judge John Heyburn II to let them onto the case, which is now between Metro Government and the buildings’ owner Todd Blue Todd Blue. Heyburn has approved an agreement that ends the case. It allows Blue to destroy the buildings and provides help from the city preserving or recreating the facades.

Preservationists have sought a guarantee that the buildings or the facades will be saved. Attorney Steve Porter says Friday’s filing only seeks to overturn the agreement, and not force preservation.

“What we’re trying to do is say that the buildings need to be put in front of the Landmarks Commission and let the Landmarks Commission, with a proposal from somebody—whether that’s the current owner or a new owner—and see what that proposal is, and then make a decision on it,” he says.

The federal court ruling trumps the local Landmarks Commission. Porter told WFPL earlier this week that he thinks Heyburn will heed their request. The city is also seeking buyers for the property who would keep five of the seven building standing.

Additional reporting by Dalton Main

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Local News Politics

Court Challenge to Whiskey Row Agreement Could Come This Week

Iron Quarter (photo by Sheila Ash)Preservationists may soon file paperwork asking a federal judge to reconsider his decision on the Whiskey Row buildings at First and Main Streets.

Judge John Heyburn II recently approved an agreement between Metro Government and developer Todd Blue. It allows Blue to destroy the buildings in early May to make room for a parking lot and later a development.

Preservation attorney Steve Porter says he plans to ask Heyburn to reconsider his approval of the agreement and make it open for renegotiation.

“At least that all the parties involved, including the judge, would have a hearing to make determinations along those lines, as opposed to just the owner of the buildings having the absolute final say, which is the case now,” he says.

Porter says he’d like to make sure the buildings, or at least their facades, are saved. Blue has said if anyone thinks they can preserve the buildings and develop the property, they can purchase the land from him. The city and the Downtown Development Corporation are seeking buyers who will save five of the seven buildings.

The city’s agreement with Blue gave Metro Government 90 days to figure out the best way to preserve or recreate the facades, though Blue is not bound to save them. The city struck the deal because of concerns that Heyburn would rule in Blue’s favor and grant him permission to destroy the buildings with no delay or caveats.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Blue Says Money Is Key to Saving Whiskey Row Facades

Whiskey Row/Iron Quarter (photo by Sheila Ash)It’s still unclear whether the facades of a strip of buildings at First and Main streets can or will be saved.

Developer Todd Blue has just over two months before he can destroy the buildings to make way for a parking lot, then for the Iron Quarter development. The city has agreed to find the best way to preserve or recreate the facades, and Mayor Greg Fischer will ask the Metro Council to approve a $450,000 budget allocation to help Blue follow through on the plan.

But many council members are skeptical that the facades won’t be saved, and they may not allocate the money. Blue says he needs the money to save any parts of the buildings.

“We obviously in 2007, when we proposed the original Iron Quarter project, it was always just to save the facades and then [build] the development behind it. At that time it was Humana and at that time the city agreed to pay for the facades to be saved. So it would be a very similar pathway that it was in 2007.”

Preservationists also want a guarantee that at least the facades will be saved.

“These buildings have a lot of brick, a lot of glazed tile, stone and everything, and once you tear all of that down, you can’t recreate it. Just a little bit of the iron, you might be able to put back, but you can’t recreate the architecture that’s in those buildings,” says preservation attorney Steve Porter.

Porter, Blue and Tommy Clark from Mayor Greg Fischer’s office all discussed the issue on WFPL State of Affairs Monday. Listen here.

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State of Affairs

The Future of the Iron Quarter

STATE OF AFFAIRS 02/28/11:  A row of historic buildings downtown on Main Street has been at the center of a controversy that continues to swirl. Developer Todd Blue, who owns the buildings, says they’re unable to be saved. He wants to demolish the structures to make way for something new. Preservationists are crying foul; they say the developer isn’t doing (or spending) as much as he could to save the buildings. Meanwhile, the city has given the green light to demolition, while conducting an investigation into the feasibility of preserving the buildings, or at least their facades. Today we tackle the issue on State of Affairs. Call and tell us what you think should be done with the buildings of the Iron Quarter.

Audio MP3