Former Highlands Just Fresh Now Freshly Toasted

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Fire at the vacant Just Fresh building (Courtesy Tipster)
Fire at the vacant Just Fresh building (Courtesy Tipster)
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Thanks to a tipster for sending in these photos of the fire at the vacant Just Fresh building on Bardstown Road taken about 6:30p last Thursday. As you can see in the right photo, there was some damage to the back of the building, but the fire never got out of control.

While we’re looking at this site, anyone have any ideas on how to improve this stretch of one-story fast-food-style buildings on Louisville’s most lively road? Should they stay or is there some better, less suburban use for the property that could improve the area?

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Branden Klayko

13 COMMENTS

  1. I am a highlands resident and dont mind them too much. They are one of those things that you cant get away from today. That is somewhat of the charm of the Highlands that you have random places places like Dittos or wild and wooley, and then a KFC or Wendys across the street. Its a shame the restaurant caught fire though it was actually pretty nice inside.

  2. It’s a shame. My feeling on why that area has been so lame commercially for so long is that there’s no sense of enclosure there – the Mall’s parking lot makes you feel naked. As a result you get automotive development like the McDonalds and other free-standing fast food places. If you’re going for an autocentric business model in the highlands, you’re overpaying – why not just get a place on Preston Highway? On Bardstown you need to court foot traffic first. It’s why it’s there.

    Remember when Baja Fresh came in to the (autocentric) Just Fresh building, and was going to compete with (walkable) Qdoba? Baja Fresh lasted only a few months. I heard the Eastern Parkway Qdoba is the busiest Qdoba in the country. Walkability wins.

    Drive-Thrus are very hard on walkability, and they mess with the value of the whole block. Crossing that line of asphalt involves dodging people in cars instead of looking into shop windows. There are too many drive-thrus on that block, and then the Mall’s parking lot knocks out any walkable destinations on the other side. As a result there’s just not enough density there for Bardstown Road to be itself.

  3. Good point about the economic disadvantages of auto-centric development patterns in urban areas. This area including the several fast-food shops and the mall create a sort of barrier between two very vibrant parts of Bardstown Road. The strip could substantially be improved with a little redevelopment that increases density.

  4. If I was King (or better yet, the Robert Moses)of Louisville, I’d take the whole swath of fast food joints and surface parking from La Bamba to the lot next to William Dean’s and create a decent grocery store. http://maps.google.com/maps?t=h&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=38.236703,-85.71736&spn=0.001479,0.002229&z=19

    The building would be zero lot line, one level of parking below grade with the entry ramp at Beechwood (make it a signalized intersection) and residential above.

    The site works out perfectly to a 400 X 200 rectangle, and for those of you unfamiliar with the area, there’s a great deal of slope from Bardstown Rd to the alley, so that any rear entry to the parking would essentially be at grade. The ground floor retail would end up being two leasable spaces: a large area south of the parking ramp, and a smaller one north.

    Assuming 20 foot floor to floor from the sidewalk to the residential above, I would do two story townhouse ‘soft loft’ condo units facing Bardstown Rd and small, one-story rental units in the back overlooking the alley. Both sets of residential would share a second floor open and landscaped courtyard between them served via a lobby entered from both Bardstown and the LL1 parking level (although I’d only provide separate parking for the condos).

    Based on the 400 foot Bardstown Rd. footage, you could get 11 condo units at just about a 36 foot lease span. With the apartments at the back, that would end up being 16-20 units as you’d probably want to go with a combination of studio, 1 and 2 bedroom units.

    Just this man’s opinion.

  5. While the parking lot of Mid-City is not particularly attractive, wasn’t its predecessor a large yard of an orphanage or something of the like?
    Any “barrier” or “division” the parking lot now serves would still be there, albeit greener and maybe nicer, even if the mall hadn’t been developed.

  6. Sorry for the double posting, but I have a question. How was the Fresh Market “autocentric.” It had a narrow parking lot, but no drive-thru. I understand the idea as it applies to the MacDonalds and the Rally’s that Just Fresh replaced, but how does it apply to that building as it exists?

  7. common man: single-use, single story, stand-alone structure.

    general discussion: …The use happened to have been for the purposes of dispensing food rapidly. The off-street parking requirement was probably met. In that location it, like much of the the other uses from just north of Ramsi’s to Grindsted Dr have little relation – perception – or connection – physical – to those – workers or residents – who may wish to make a trip to the establishment by foot.

    The Qdoba happens to be walkable. It also must be walkable because off-street, or even on-street parking is a premium. The certain attributes of the surrounding neighborhoods make walking practical, if not enjoyable, from a considerable distance from the store (guess that distance to be bounded by Boone’s statue, Highland Middle, Baxter Ave, and Tyler Pkwy). Qdoba’s location at the corner of Bardstown and Eastern Parkway certainly would increase its patronage even if it and a drive-thru were separated from the intersection by 100 feet. But because it is near to Eastern Pkwy and on Bardstown road it rewards the diner with street life and weekend cruisers. They further reward their patrons with outdoor dining – i think they call it alfresco – and entertainment. It fulfills our desire to see and to be seen.

    And damnit, man, have you been to Qdoba? That is a good burrito. I went to Qdoba – that Qdoba – before any other or their late to this market competitor. That location scores for me as a just outside a Keep Louisville Weird store.

    I wouldn’t recommend another grocer locate in this area. Just demand more from the current offerings. but a development of increased height and intensity and less setback might activate this otherwise forgettable block. Design could be based upon the building on the NE corner of Cherokee Pkwy and Bardstown Rd. I would like to see the front yard of that church put up for sale – at the reward of urbanists though at a loss to those interested in the contextual integrity of our older building.

    I would further suggest that, if that toasted building would have been an establishment with dimmer lights, outdoor sidewalk seating, desirable entertainment options, and a parking agreement with Mid City Mall .. it would have been fine.

  8. The only problem is that the Just Fresh building is (was?) too small inside for anything more than the purpose it served. And really, it was barely large enough for that. I actually used to work there and know very well how crowded it was inside. We weren’t able to offer many of the menu items that we were supposed to have because we had no room to store and prepare things. There wasn’t any room for live entertainment either inside or outside (we did try, but ended up giving up on trying when we had to squeeze performers on the patio or move tables around for musicians who, I’ll just say it, stunk). Even if they didn’t have the parking lot to deal with, there isn’t much room for anything on the property.

    Unless somebody gets really creative, the building may sit there for years falling into deeper disrepair. It has already been sitting empty since July 2009 and now it is even less desirable as a vacant building with the back scorched…

  9. While not ideal the destruction and redesign of the McDonalds on Bardstown Road is a vast improvement over the previous incarnation. The building is built within approx 6-8 ft of the sidewalk with tables out front and a short wall against the sidewalk. If I remember correctly the parking lot is partially screened to lessen the asphalt pond effect. There is no giant sign 30 ft in the air and in general the building is well designed. In my opinion this type of development does not take away from walkability very much and is about the best we can hope for in some situations. If the McDonalds on Market St or Arbys on Bardstown were rebuilt in this style (removing the stupid front driveway) it would be a vast improvement, both aesthetically and for walkability. As a pragmatic person I realize that many people like to acquire food without getting out of their cars and these businesses are unlikely to lose their drive thru zoning. As adovates for good design in the urban core of Louisville we should be pushing for these building to be redesigned so they respect their neighborhoods and other modes of transit.

  10. There are many business models that support the benefit of a “drive- thru” window. Not all that long ago, White Castle tore down the store on Frankfort Avenue, in what is a “very walkable” neighborhood (www.walkscore.com) because there was no hope of installing a functional drive-thru. Same thing happened for the same reason back in the mid-80’s right down the street from Just Fresh when White Castle tore down the store at Eastern Pkwy (walkscore 86). While the 3 and 1/2 mile stretch from Spinelli’s to the Sullivan Bakery is, indeed, more walkable than many neighborhoods in Jefferson County, the County, and Metro as a whole, remain very auto-centric and most restauranteurs have to consider parking and auto traffic when setting up shop. To this end, maybe a model that incorporates pedestrian sidewalk safety, such as audio signals like on W. Market at the Aegon Bldg where parking garage traffic exits, could be employed.

  11. Yeah, because when I go for a stroll down a shopping corridor, I want to hear plenty of sirens. 🙂

    There are systemic effects. If everyone used a wheel chair, then accessibility issues would become public enemy #1. If everyone uses a car, then you have to have a drive thru. But for vibrant street life you have to welcome the locals.

    So it may be that White Castle should advocate for drive thrus in it’s own selfish self-interest. That’s what corporations do. However, the used record store, the book store, and the coffee shops down the street all suffer a penalty. At a certain point, a threshold is reached and the block becomes damaged goods. Parts of that block of Bardstown are past that threshold. We need better awareness of the downsides of autocentric development.

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