In a letter addressed to members of the Metro Council, local preservationists have asked city lawmakers to exam the settlement between the Mayor’s Office and developer Todd Blue in an effort to save Whiskey Row from demolition.
In a surprise announcement, Mayor Greg Fischer said the city and the developer reached an agreement that allows the Louisville businessman to demolish the row of 19th-century buildings in less than 90 days and also gives Blue permission 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.
From Neighborhood Planning & Preservation:
Dear Metro Council Members,
In a democracy, citizens rely on their elected officials to exercise transparency and encourage public participation. Moreover, the cornerstone of democratic governance is its system of checks and balances. As the legislative branch of Metro government, you represent our first line of protection, when the executive branch fails to meet its obligation to an open and inclusive process.
Conducted outside public scrutiny, Mayor Fisher’s negotiations with developer Todd Blue and their ultimate deal regarding Whiskey Row side-stepped the law and excluded the community. We urge the Metro Council to pose the questions that many in our community—preservationists and non-preservationists–now ask:
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?
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?
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?
The iron-faced buildings on Whiskey Row were built to last. Horribly neglected, but still standing proud, they symbolize Louisville’s singular distilling and architectural history. Demolition will not only result in yet another brutal assault on our urban landscape; It taxes the public coffers and diminishes the local and national collection of unique historic structures.
We urge you to publicly explore these and other related issues as a body. Will a surface parking lot really provide significant economic stimulus–resulting in long-terms jobs and community wide benefits? Why are structures that were declared salvageable a few months ago now declared dangerous and unsound? Just as the community has the right to transparency and inclusion, it deserves the truth. Please do your best to separate fact from show.
Finally, we suggest you revisit the wisdom of sharing attorneys with the executive branch. Regardless of the outcome in this matter, the council must demonstrate its unique role as the legislative body. Sharing counsel perpetuates the fear that Metro Council acts as an extension of the Mayor’s office and primarily according to his will.
Please ask these difficult questions and reaffirm the community’s belief that you remain good stewards of the public trust.
Martina N. Kunnecke
President, Board of Directors
Neighborhood Planning & Preservation, Inc. (NPP)
For the past year, Blue has fought with city officials and preservationists over the Iron Quarter, an ambitious development project that involves razing seven historic buildings along the Main Street corridor downtown.
“In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be my hope and dream to demolish these properties,” Blue told LEO Weekly a week ago. “We’re a seasoned and documented preservationist company in the work we’ve done downtown, which seems to go undocumented in the media. But if they are so passionate, if they care so much about these buildings and it’s so important to them: go raise money, get some partners, buy the buildings and go develop them. Otherwise, let me do my project.”