Whiskey Row could become parking lot

The settlement between the city of Louisville and developer Todd Blue allows the local businessman to use Whiskey Row as a surface parking lot for up to five years before any new development takes place, according to legal documents obtained by LEO Weekly.

Last week, Mayor Greg Fischer announced the city and Blue had reached an agreement that allows the Louisville businessman to demolish a row of 19th-century buildings along Main Street in order to construct the Iron Quarter, an ambitious development project that involves razing seven historic structures along the city’s downtown corridor.

The Mayor’s Office, however, did not mention what the paperwork filed in U.S. federal court last Friday outlines. According to the settlement, the city has given Blue’s Cobalt Ventures permission to use the properties as a parking lot for an interim period of five years once the demolition is complete. The usage is subject to approval by the Waterfront Review Overlay District, which Metro officials have agreed to advocate for at any hearing on behalf of Blue.

In 2007, Blue purchased the long-vacant buildings for $4.3 million with plans for a $50 million development. But the recession stalled the project, and the buildings have remained an eyesore. Asked how quickly construction could begin if demolition takes place as early as May, Blue says it would take time before the Iron Quarter is complete.

“We’ve got discussions ongoing with our banks, our partners and our hotel company at this point,” he says. “You got at least 15 months to draw it and then another 18 to 24 months to construct it. We’re talking three to five years. By the way that’s not unusual. How long has Museum Plaza been talking about what they’re doing?”

Under the terms of the deal, the city will issue Blue an emergency demolition order after a 90-day period while helping investigate ways to either preserve the facades or recreate new ones with a similar architectural appearance. Fischer plans to ask Metro Council to appropriate a minimum of $450,000 in the upcoming budget to help cover the cost of preserving the structures’ facades.

However, Blue told LEO Weekly that his company has no intention of saving the facades because it would be “cost-prohibitive.”

From Iron (Quarter) Man:

“Our proposed plan is recreating the architectural images of those facades in exactly the way they are today,” Blue says. “With today’s technology, you can recreate exactly what’s there. We can show you where the paint’s chipping off. It’s done around the country and is celebrated. We’d love to do that.”

Local preservationists — who have criticized Fischer’s deal with the developer — compare the plan to the controversial Centrepointe deal in Lexington, where former Mayor Jim Newberry allowed a company to raze 12 historic downtown buildings to build a proposed hotel complex.

Since then, the failed project has remained an empty grassy lot, which Louisville preservationists fear could happen at Whiskey Row.

“We have a city full of empty lots that have started with a promise of development and now are parking lots and mud holes,” says Martina Kunnecke, president of Neighborhood Planning and Preservation, a group dedicated to saving local monuments. “This new information is very distressing, and that the Fischer administration has paved the way for Mr. Blue to bring those buildings down without any guarantee to build anything is disturbing. People are not happy, and we’re not going down without making a lot of noise.”

Several preservationist organizations have contacted the Mayor’s Office in an effort to meet with Fischer and are mulling over what steps to take next as details of the agreement become available.

Others have already planned a “Save Whiskey Row” rally scheduled for Thursday at the corner of First and Main Streets.

4 Comments

  1. Curtis Morrison
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Todd Blue- I want to know the city where that practice is “being celebrated”? And if it’s not a city in World of Warcraft, I want to know what the hell makes you think we want to be like them?

    I’ve put together a little SAVE WHISKEY ROW rally for tomorrow morning, 7:30 AM- 9 AM on the sidewalk in front of Whiskey Row. All are welcome. Including you, Todd. I have some ideas for how you could spend more time romancing our city, and less time raping it.

  2. SSG. Joe Meek
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 2:55 am | Permalink

    Are you telling me that we are going to let this idiot knock down all that history….. and the guy who owns Jennys Diner can’t get rid of that old “roach hive” beside his joint ?
    Knocking those historic pieces of Louisville down is a very bad idea, hatched up by people who do not have our citys best interests at heart! Fight this every step of the way!

  3. SSG. Joe Meek
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    I’d be there with you for sure, Mr. Morrison, but my ass is stuck in Iraq!

  4. Jeff Davidson
    Posted March 1, 2011 at 3:11 am | Permalink

    I doubt that Mr. Blue ever had any intention of creating a new development. He probably envisioned the possibility of charging outlandish parking rates for those attending functions at the new arena from the day he purchased the block.
    Is there another city anywhere in this country that has as much surface parking as we do in Louisville? I’d like to know who owns these lots. I bet there would be a few surprises if we had a listing of parking lot owners in this city. Louisville is quickly becoming one of the ugliest cities in the country.

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  2. By Fischer talks state of the city – FatLip on January 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm

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