Looks like we just dodged two development bullets on one of Louisville’s most important underutilized urban properties. The old Bader’s Food Mart and gas station at the corner of Broadway and Baxter Avenue has been vacant and the land it sits on is for lease, according to a Courier-Journal report. The three-quarter-acre property at 1244 East Broadway—owned by Kennie and Patricia Combs—has had interest from a drug store chain and a fast food restaurant, both of which wanted to build auto-centric developments on this very urban site.
CVS turned down the site, the newspaper reported, when it figured it couldn’t fit a drive through there, and another suburban fast food fried chicken restaurant called Raising Cane stepped away after not wanting to to abide by Louisville development rules encouraging buildings on Broadway to build up to the sidewalk.
The site is an incredibly prominent one and has the potential to be a strong node connecting the Highlands to Louisville’s core neighborhoods. Until now, the gas station has presented a pedestrian obstacle, confused the already complicated intersection with extra curb cuts, and generally provided an eyesore across from one of Louisville’s grandest landmarks: the entrance to Cave Hill Cemetery. By its very nature, this site demands a strong development proposal.
The Original Highlands neighborhood, in which the site sits, is watching the site closely, the C-J reported. Neighborhood association president Matt Blair told the newspaper he wanted to see a new two- or three-story mixed use building on the site. We say that should just be the start. A few years ago, we published an ambitious proposal by Nick Seivers to remake the intersection of Broadway and Baxter Avenue with a mix of dense development framing a roundabout. Blair said the roundabout proposal has received “positive support” from the neighborhood.
Since Nick’s proposal was published, we asked him to revisit the concept in light of community feedback. We’ve published the article with his new comments here. He even took the idea to Metro Louisville’s Move Louisville initiative, which estimated the roundabout would cost about $950,000 to implement. As Nick wrote in his update, “This isn’t just an intersection of roads, streets, and driveways, it is a place.” Nick’s concept utilizes the block across the street predominantly occupied by Phoenix Hill Tavern to build up the area into a real center.
Looking at the site historically, the odd shape of the parcels that make up the now-larger property made for some wonky development. It appears even a century ago, cookie-cutter development was the norm as historic photos show a two-story commercial building (that was clearly not designed for a corner) jammed onto the irregular site. According to an insurance map from 1905 (see below), the site included a couple houses on Broadway, a two-story mixed-use building on the corner, and a few wooden houses on Baxter Avenue. All of that is now gone, of course.
Clearly, this is one site that Louisville has never gotten quite right. And it appears there’s a chance we could correct that this time around. In our opinion, a building with three to five stories, perhaps with setbacks, would fit nicely on this site and give it a density and massing to make it a true urban center. As Nick’s proposal suggests, we should also take a close look at the intersection design in the process before we cement another bad decision in place. What would you like to see on the corner?
[Historic photos courtesy UL Photographic Archives – URL.]
You really do need the transmission place next door, a creative site plan, and a rethinking of this corner as both anchor and bridge to the rest of Baxter and on into Irish Hill and beyond. And the Bardstown Road Overlay should be extended to Baxters terminus, to ensure both connectivity and retention of characteristic built resources.
The area was once greenhouses serving Cave Hill. The JC Reiger photo studio is adjacent . And the other corner was a Chevron station until Phoenix Hill flattened it for oh yes a parking lot. Both corners need rethinking. Chicken will sell on a corner. Ask KFC.
Believe it or not, Raising Cane’s would have been a good fit. It is one of the few fast-food chains that “gets it.” They’re closed on holidays so their employees can enjoy the holiday like the rest of us, they prepare a quality product – chicken fingers, fries, slaw – that’s it. The concept it sound, the product is consistently well-prepared throughout their chain, managers are on site all the time (try to find an actual manager with any authority at most chain eateries on a weekend or after 4:00pm on a weekday), and you’re just as likely to find the manager cleaning the bathroom and mopping the floor as working the back line. It is a different type of fast food chain. Think McDonald’s. Think KFC. Cane’s is the opposite of that drek!
That said, everything Louisville does nowadays tends to be pro-auto or pro-bicycle (that’s okay to a point), but NOT pro-pedestrian or transit. When you talk transit to city planners, its as if you’re speaking a foreign language that nobody understands.
Anything that would un-choke this intersection would be good, though. Good luck getting “Possibility City” to do anything much positive here.
I like the roundabout idea along with the curved buildings around it. I wouldn’t go as far as Nick’s plan on the north end though with eliminating Phoenix Hill Tavern. To really make a landmark out of it, put a big fountain in the middle of the roundabout like Chicago’s Buckingham fountain or a monument like Indy’s Soldiers’ and Sailers’ Monument or Kansas City’s Liberty Monument. Make it something worthwhile so the Highland fuddy duds will be less inclined to fight it. Ahh, make it a monument to the Highlands! Joking there, but that would be a great site for a monument. From that location, it could be seen from all over downtown and southern Indiana.
Have the Combs agreed to sell? It will be hard to get the kind of investment this site needs from a lease…
One of the worst things about this intersection now is how pedestrian unfriendly it is. There are 5 possible places for crosswalks at the lights, but only 2 exist. This means that if you are at one point and want to cross the street to get to Cave Hill, you can’t legally unless you walk over .5 miles.
See this tweet: https://twitter.com/metromapper/status/598581017759342594
and this map for the details of this: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=z2UPT7Ml6tYY.kbgQMR3buH9Y&usp=sharing
With the new jaywalking laws, this is a shame that getting into Cave Hill is so difficult from some parts of that intersection.
I wrote to Public Works about this but they said while a pedestrian crosswalk across Cherokee is too dangerous (it may be), they didn’t address any possible changes to the intersection.
See this tweet for the full text of their response: https://twitter.com/metromapper/status/633743254278672384
it is easy to get into Cave Hill … but you have to die first!
Does anyone know who the owner is?