Fenced off from Iroquois Park by a wall of chain link, the historic Colonial Gardens complex on the corner of New Cut Road and Kenwood Drive has certainly seen better days. With a proud wooden frame and stout massing around a corner turret, the building’s design harkens back to when this part of South Louisville was a rural outpost on the edge of town. But you’d hardly know it, with dilapidated siding covering the building and its windows, giving it the appearance of a forlorn ghost.
But the former zoo and nightclub will soon be restored to its former bucolic glory.
Councilman Dan Johnson announced last week that the city-owned building will undergo initial exterior upgrades, including added security, new fencing and signage, temporary lighting, and demolition of non-historic parts of the structure, leading up to the transfer of the property to Underhill Associates, which will fully renovate the building.
“There have been complaints about how the building looks,” Johnson said in a statement, “but I continue to stress to the key players involved that there are things that can be done now to stabilize the facility and make the corner look better as we finalize the remaining details for the ultimate redevelopment of this historic location.”
The temporary improvements will be funded by $25,000 from the city’s budget. The press release added that “additional funds were also budgeted for roof repairs to the historic structure.”
Metro Louisville purchased the building in 2013 for $430,000 after previous redevelopment attempts fell through and the building languished. Care for the structure did not improve under the city’s control, leading to an embarrassing moment earlier this year when a city inspector declared the building a public nuisance.
“We received a complaint from a citizen concerning the overall condition of the property,” Metro Louisville Code Enforcement Officer Philip Crowe told the Courier-Journal in May. “Our officer responded, doing a normal inspection, and for some reason chose to add that the property was becoming a public nuisance…I wouldn’t say that it’s an embarrassment because we didn’t send a notice; we didn’t actually cite [Colonial Gardens] because we didn’t send a notice to ourselves.”
In April 2014, Metro Louisville announced a redevelopment deal with Underhill Associates to build “at least 16,000 square feet new retail, restaurant and commercial outlets on the property,” according to the Councilman’s press release. According to the Courier-Journal‘s Sheldon Shafer, that deal calls for the city to give the developer the property free of charge and issue a $1.2 million “construction grant” as an incentive, drawn partially from area councilpersons’ discretionary funds.
Shafer reported that possible tenants could include “several family-oriented restaurants, a beer garden, ice cream shop and a ‘breakfast spot’.” Rumors at the time speculated that the Bluegrass Brewing Company would be part of the project.
Redevelopment cannot begin until the lease for a Little Caesar’s franchise in an outbuilding on the property expires in July 2017. City officials are exploring whether they can negotiate an early end to the lease.
Colonial Gardens, dating to 1902, received Individual Landmark status in 2008 through a citizen-led petition effort following attempts at demolishing the structure.
Underhill Associates is currently renovating an old textile mill on Goss Avenue into the Germantown Mill Lofts, down the street from their offices. They previously developed the Westport Village shopping center.