Ultimatum Issued For Frankfort Avenue House

23 170
Victorian House on Frankfort Avenue - December 2009 (BS File Photo)
Victorian House on Frankfort Avenue - December 2009 (BS File Photo)

Action has finally been mandated for a deteriorating Victorian mansion at 2223 Frankfort Avenue. Frank Faris, owner of the house and the adjacent Genny’s Diner, must comply with a court order to either sell the property, improve the house to correct all code violations, or serve a one year jail term. A judge issued the mandate during a December 15 court date and Faris has until January 25, 2010 to repair or sell the house or else report to jail.

The house was occupied less than a decade ago but has seen heavy deterioration including a 2006 fire leaving it in a state of advanced disrepair. Faris purchased the 19th century Queen Anne style house in the Clifton neighborhood in 2001 for $100,000. The house then sat unused for several years deteriorating. In 2003, Clifton was designated a Local Landmark District and later in September 2003, Faris was cited for numerous housing code violations.

A court date was scheduled in August 2004 to resolve the code violations but was rescheduled after Faris failed to appear on time. Three months later, another hearing sought to resolve public health and nuisance threats to the property and Faris was given a week to remove piles of gravel partially blocking the sidewalk and remove weeds and trash that could harbor rodents.

At a February 2005 hearing, Faris plead guilty to the housing code violations which allowed him 30 days to rectify the problems or demolish the building. Because of the neighborhood’s Landmark status, demolition would have required approval from the Clifton Architectural Review Committee or Faris would need to meet economic hardship criteria under the Louisville Landmark Ordinance.

Later, in September 2005, a judge imposed a $50,000 fine or a one year jail term for the housing code violations. Minimal improvements have been made over the years per judge’s requirements, but code violations still remain and have worsened.

Among the violations originally cited in 2003, many still must be corrected. Metro Louisville then requested deteriorating siding and molding be repaired as well as the roof, missing downspouts and windows replaced, garbage be removed, and the structure secured from unauthorized entry.

The house was not in perfect condition ten years ago but as can be seen in photos below, it was habitable and in generally good shape. Over the years, benign neglect has left the building in its current state as codes were ignored and now the building would require extensive renovation work if it can be salvaged.

Fortunately for the building, it sits on a vibrant stretch of Frankfort Avenue in a landmark district and might find a party interested in renovating the structure if Frank Faris opts to sell the property. The house’s value is currently assessed for tax purposes at $23,610. The .08 acre site is small and the house fills nearly the entire parcel, meaning if the structure is removed the site would not provide many parking spaces or easily accommodate a new structure.

Frankfort Avenue House - Summer 2000
Frankfort Avenue House – Summer 2000. (Mike O’Leary)
Frankfort Avenue House - September 2003
Frankfort Avenue House – September 2003. (Mike O’Leary)
Frankfort Avenue House - August 2004
Frankfort Avenue House – August 2004. (Mike O’Leary)
Frankfort Avenue House - March 2006
Frankfort Avenue House – March 2006. (Mike O’Leary)
Victorian House on Frankfort Avenue - December 2009 (BS File Photo)
Victorian House on Frankfort Avenue – December 2009. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)
Fire at the Frankfort Avenue House in 2006
Fire at the Frankfort Avenue House in 2006. (Mike O’Leary)
Inside the Frankfort Avenue House
Inside the Frankfort Avenue House. (Mike O’Leary)

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden is a writer and architectural designer living in Brooklyn. After graduating from the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, Branden practiced architecture in Louisville where he worked on several large LEED Certified buildings. Branden is the senior web editor at The Architect’s Newspaper, where he covers architecture, design, and urbanism. He has also written about design for Designers & Books, sustainability for Inhabitat, and architecture for the American Institute of Architects. He founded Broken Sidewalk in 2007, an online collaborative promoting architecture and urbanism in Louisville, Kentucky and the Midwest.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Thank goodness that something has been done about the problem of people destroying historic properties for parking lots. Ever since the inception of Urban Renewal (which it is not), the uneducated and ignorant only see these properties as “Old as worthless”. They could never be more wrong. Once they are gone, they can never be re-created. I hope that Mr. Faris likes Frickle Pickles in jail.

  2. *Sigh* I had forgotten how nice that house used to look. It’s depressing to see what a state Frank Faris has let it get in. I hope it winds up in some caring hands soon.

    -Eric

  3. I’m originally from NY, so don’t know the history of this house, but it was, just a few short years ago, a beautiful house. For someone to deliberately let it fall into ruin isn’t just sad, its criminal. Hopefully someone will fix it up to its once splendid structure.

  4. For someone to own a louisville landmark restraunt like Geny’s Diner and let another property fall into this state of disrepair makes me feel confused…anyone else know why he refuses to either sell or fix this place?

  5. It’s obvious that Mr. Faris has only his own selfish interests at heart. Genny’s Diner is considered by some to be a Louisville tradition but in reality, it’s a dump with mediocre food and questionable cleanliness (has anyone really looked in that fish tank?).
    Fried pickles and a Sweet Daddy burger which is really nothing more than a rediculous pile of meat with very little flavor. Perhaps the best way to tell him what we think of his actions is to simply ignore his restaurant. It’s not as if we don’t have DOZENS of better choices anyway.

  6. that was a beautiful house at one time, it is sad that he let it go to hell. he needs to sell it or give it away to someone who would fix it up and bring it back to the way it was. we don’t need any more parking lots, we have enough already.

  7. He has always wanted that property for more parking for his diner, which is quite horrible food and atmosphere. As someone mentioned above, I’m not sure how he stays in business. Obviously, most of his business comes from people outside the neighborhood as I’m sure he has pissed off many of his neighbors. It would also not surprise me that the building mysteriously catches fire again before Jan 25th. Frank Faris is your typical “Screw the community and what is right” type of guy. His goal is have the building raised, even if means spending a year in jail.

  8. While it seems fairly straightforward for purposes of condemning Frank Farris, it is a bit more complicated than that. The house, while at one time a fine example of Louisville architecture, sits in a completely unsuitable spot to live in – between Frankfort Avenue and the train tracks, Genny’s Diner on one side and a business that cleans and polishes brass on the other. (Noise, odor, more odor, more noise) In short, no longer usable as a residence, only a spot for some kind of commercial activity. Frank, unfortunately, got into a feud with the neighborhood association, who pinned their arguments on the garret as the ‘historic’ element of the house. No one, apparently, has seen fit to offer to buy the place and turn it into some kind of business, likely because it’s not suitable for much and – guess what – anyone attempting to do that would run afoul of the neighborhood historical group, requiring lots of extra costs to fix the place up to suit them. Farris is in a bind and driving him out of business – apparently now the intent of some of the members of the neighborhood organization – will merely turn that whole chunk of Frankfort Avenue into empty space. A pyrrhic victory, indeed.

  9. I agree, it probably would never, could never, and should never be used as a residence again. But for the right commercial operation, I think it’d be great. Offices perhaps, or maybe a store or small restaurant… The only issue is parking. With the size of the building and the lot, they would only have the street.

    -Eric

  10. It’s SO Easy for some to condem Frank for wanting to tear down a house for parking!, He bought it and He’s paying for it!..It’s His and why should anyone care if he tears it down for a use to help his business!! Heshould be allowed to do as he wants & he’s getting screwed!….It makes no sense to restore the dump for what that would cost, and hope to find a tenant to make that work, probably impossible?
    Buildings are torn down all the time, and that old house has NO Value to anyone or a speculator should buy it !!!…I don’t know if Frank owes anything on it??? If So he should let the Bank have it back!

  11. This case may be convoluted but it’s not all that complicated. From the timeline of events I described above, Faris purchased the structure in 2001 and had two years to act on demolishing it before Clifton was declared a Landmark neighborhood. No action was taken and the house suffered considerable decay. Now that the historic Clifton neighborhood is recognized as such, demolition is much more difficult as the ARC is now involved and the only other resort is economic hardship.

    While the house’s location may not be an ideal spot for a single family house with the small lot size and situation on a commercial street, there’s nothing saying it can’t be converted to commercial or mixed-use. In my opinion, the latter is the preferred use. Parking would only present challenges for redevelopment based on what is proposed there. A restaurant would be tricky.

    Proximity to the tracks can’t be held up as a reason not to live there as there are dozens of houses along Frankfort Ave. just as close to the tracks and plenty of others around Louisville.

    There have reportedly been fair-market offers placed on the house through the years that Faris rejected. With the onset of more severe dilapidation, it may be more difficult to find another buyer but the house has also lost a lot of value. I would also be willing to bet that the Clifton neighborhood ARC isn’t going to bully anyone trying to restore this house. I’m sure the neighborhood wants, above all, the house saved from demolition and would work with any party willing to work with the house.

    Lastly, the site is tiny. As I said, it’s only .08 acres. That’s less than 3,500 square feet and nearly half of it has already been converted to parking. It’s a little hard to see, but what was once a modest side garden in 2000 has been converted to about six parking spots already.

    Remember the piles of gravel blocking the sidewalk that were part of he original citation? I believe the gravel may have been used to create a parking surface.

    If the house were removed, only three or maybe four parking spots could be added based on standard parking space size, lane widths, etc. That’s hardly a benefit.

    While this house has certainly been at the center of a feud, the ball has been in Faris’ court as he has previously refused to sell, repair, or demolish the house. Now that this case has come to a boil, it does indeed look like no winners will emerge.

  12. As I was photographing the house today, a train was holding up traffic on Frankfurt. A woman rolled down her window to ask if I were thinking of buying the place. I told her I thought it was too far gone to rehabilitate. She said she’d seen others just as bad that had been renovated. In fact, she had done a few herself. I told I had seen a photo of the place in 2000 on this site. And she told me she had seen it too! I asked her then if she was thinking of buying the house. She said she was thinking about it.

  13. Mr. Klayko has provided an accurate chronology and documentation regarding the intentional neglect of this house and property code violations, one of the few Queen Anne style buildings in Clifton. One additional point, however: the entire neighborhood has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1981, so the structure was already deemed historic before Mr. Fariss bought the property.

    Also, anyone interested in the house should contact Mr. Fariss’ attorney, John Taylor, at 585-4353. Frank is not taking calls himself about the property and refers calls to his attorney.

  14. This whole case is a prime example of the reactionary, backwards thinking of this community. These “Historic Preservation” crusaders simply stand in the way of progress and practical development and growth in Louisville. When you compare the physical appearance of Louisville with other cities in this region, Louisville looks like some kind of rundown, poverty stricken, blighted community. These community organizations are clinging to some “Old South” idea of what Louisville should be, and it is simply not concurrent with the modern world. Drive around Louisville and you will see empty businesses, for lease/sale signs, abandoned buildings, and blighted neighborhoods…unless of course you live in the Mayor’s neighborhood or the east end. Let Frank build the parking lot. The city built a parking lot for Mike Reidy at the Irish Rover. There are other businesses in that area that could benefit from more parking. Let’s fix Louisville the right way, not let it slowly decay because some old cronies don’t want things to change.

  15. preservation is a tool for economic development, dave. parking lots are more likely to be eyesores/blight, especially if their construction requires the removal of a viable building.

    the parking lot in which the city participated was not ‘for michael reidy’ but is, in fact, a public lot which genny’s customers are also free to use. it’s handled as well as can be expected – buffered from the street by a little landscaping – but still seems like a stopgap measure. frankfort ave will be better off when even that lot can be replaced by less visible parking somewhere else and that gap filled in.

    so, your version of progress and practical development is simply different than that of most of the people in the immediate neighborhood – and me, for that matter. it has nothing to do with the old south or nostalgia, but more of keeping what we have that’s good and complementing it with more good, not destroying what’s good for the sake of short-term gain. people can stand to walk a little farther for their frickled pickle chips.

  16. I have no opinion whether he should be able to demo and use for parking or not. Having renovated a Victorian home myself, it is a lot of work and money. I lean toward let him demo as parking on that street is very limited. As far as the diner, that is sad. The cleanliness alone made me turn and walk out after being a long time customer. There are many other character flaws that factor into all this, and it is sad but Frank is his own worst enemy. I think he is off the drugs now, so that should help!

  17. It looks like what happened initially was that old Hillbilly Farris just loaded a bunch of paint onto the already rotten timbers of this house and that just sent the decay process into overdrive mode if you will. Anytime a slumlord does a "paint-slap" which this is,the boards immediately begin to deliquesce at an alarming rate because heat and water are trapped behind 1/100th of an inch of paint. And that paint job looks like it lasted about a month.

    Now as far as what to do with the place I would like to see it fixed up but not demolished. And if it gets demolished people should remember that these types of houses were built ten at a time using the assembly-line method. The window frames, doors, moldings, baseboards and lighting fixtures are the same from one city to the next in this style of house because this was a solution for economical housing. Foundations first, then frames, then chimney towers etcetera. These old Queen Anne type of houses are not works of art, although they can be fun to work on and rebuild if it's the right one

    That said,nuts to some hillbilly diner with flat thin burgers, crummy service and dirty floors.

  18. Dave, dismissing the importance of historic preservation is at best a foolish way of thinking. I will agree with you that there are many areas of Louisville that are very run down, but that is because we are located on the southern fringe of the rust belt; many of those areas are in their current state because the global economy, suburbia, and of host of other factors have simply left them abandoned. Now I do agree with you that we can’t save every single eighty or hundred year old building in order to appeal to some sense of nostalgia, but it is VERY important that we make serious efforts to preserve, restore, and repurpose the existing building stock in conjunction with new projects in order to create a vibrant urban environment. One doesn’t have to go far to see what happens if this basic rule isn’t followed; whole blocks of downtown are practically useless (what I like call “Louisville’s Urban Deserts”) because someone thought simply bulldozing vacant buildings was sound urban planning. Save what can be saved, and rebuild what is lost. That is what Louisville development’s golden rule should be.

  19. Absolutely unbelievable that the City of Louisville continues to torture Frank Faris over this horrible pile of garbage. What do you expect this man to do? Would it satisfy the "preservation committee" if Frank Faris took his life savings and a 20 million dollar loan and a half a gallon of his own blood and poured them into this dump? This is "preservation" run amok. Shame on you people who call yourselves "preservationists". You all, are no heroes. You're a group of BULLIES, but you'd be nothing without the law on your side. Shame on the judge that keeps sticking Frank Faris with a red hot poker. A proper judge would see right away that Frank Faris isn't into construction or preservation, he's got a business to run, he doesn't have the money or the years left in his lifetime to cater and play to the whims of a bunch of NAZI house huggers. Is there any justice? Is there any decency? Doesn’t Frank Faris have his civil rights, too, or do we only listen to the loonies and the mobs?

Leave a Reply