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.