Well, we thought the Main & Clay mixed-use apartment building planned by Bristol Development in Butchertown was making its way smoothly through the approval process after the Butchertown Architecture Review Committee (ARC) approved it four to one on December 10, but now there’s a new hurdle to clear.
The project had been supported by the Butchertown Neighborhood Association (BNA), the Nulu Business Association, and my editorial here on Broken Sidewalk, but has drawn criticism from some preservationists over the project’s plans to demolish three historic structures and incorporate their facades into the new building. One of those preservation groups, OPEN Louisville headed by attorney Stephen T. Porter, has now filed an appeal challenging the ARC’s approval of the development, according to Insider Louisville.
Bob Keesaer, the city’s urban design administrator had recommended denying the project since it didn’t meet the requirements of building within the historic district. He told Broken Sidewalk last year, “What I have on my desk in front of me right now shows that four historic buildings will be demolished. That’s in conflict with the design guidelines.” The ARC later overruled that staff recommendation, but according to Insider, Porter is arguing that the ARC “gave no justification for overruling the staff report.”
The ARC did ask for small changes be made to the design. “We have agreed to work on changing colors of upper portions of building, which was a condition of ARC approval,” Charles Carlisle, Bristol CEO, said in an email. “They want a more muted palette above the two story base, which I think will improve the aesthetics. Perhaps darker tones of same colors.”
He also told Broken Sidewalk that his company explored various options to relocate a townhouse on the site:
Just so you’re aware, we explored moving the house on Washington Street with the two top restoration / relocation groups in Louisville. The most highly rated was not willing to do a detailed proposal. They said if it could be moved it would cost between $300,000 – 400,000 but we would have to solve getting under power lines in every direction. The second one would not put a price on relocation, recommending strongly we not try to move it. They were concerned that the mortar is likely very unstable and that the brick walls would collapse. They also didn’t think it could be moved given the power lines in every direction. We even explored dismantling it and rebuilding it on another site but that wasn’t very practical and isn’t really preservation in any event.
“It’s unfortunate to see groups that are outside the neighborhood opposing the Main and Clay project,” Andy Cornelius, BNA president, told Broken Sidewalk in an email. “The people who actually live and work in Butchertown met, discussed, and voted in favor of the project. To my knowledge, not one resident is behind the efforts to stop this project—it’s all outside interests. The BNA’s position of support has not changed.”
I personally hope the Landmarks Commission upholds the ruling of the neighborhood ARC. Bristol had a successful meeting with the Land Development and Transportation Committee in January 22 and he will appear before the Landmarks Commission on February 22 when the appeal will be discussed.
Provincial all or nothing arguments that put nothing on the developer except not having to work too hard because somebody gave them a guarantee that the landmarks regs could easily be thrown out for the next great thing . This is the WalMart argument in a different coat. Build a wall around the neighborhood and give no voice to the larger question at hand. You either value the neighborhood for what it is or get ready to throw more of it in the dumpster when something really bad is on the drawing board. Like Family Dollar. Don’t want community input?! Don’t like the larger question of what makes a neighborhood valuable?? When you set the bar low you get what you get. This same neighborhood went to great lengths to establish a preservation ordinance, only to opt out at the first opportunity to have formula housing. You think NuLu would make it on demolition of every other old building?? Where IS that boutique hotel anyway?? There are plenty of decimated blocks to build on and there are plenty of design solutions for this development as well. Quick cheap and easy isn’t always the answer. Grow up.
I applaud OPEN Louisville’s efforts to challenge the development. The fact that they are “outside the neighborhood” holds very little significance to me (NULU isn’t technically part of Butchertown either). Neighborhoods are not islands, and we all have an interest in the way in which our city develops and our neighborhoods are preserved, whether or not we live in that particular neighborhoods or not. Butchertown residents voice should be heard and paid close attention to, but they should not be the only voice.
And Butchertown isn’t unanimous in it’s support. I am a Butchertown resident and was deeply disappointed by both Broken Sidewalk’s support of the development as is (I typically am a fan of the site), and especially by the ARC’s approval. This neighborhood has come back largely via the efforts of preservationists who took care to save the historic buildings here (this was the biggest reason I bought a house here). Once the historic buildings are gone, they are gone forever. And while I understand the need for both something to be done to better develop that block, and the need for more downtown housing, this development neither fits into the fabric of the neighborhood (too tall and generic) or the spirit of preservation it is built on. Just because significant development hasn’t happened there yet doesn’t mean we should accept the first (bad) proposal. It is short sighted to fall into this, and we will one day regret the support when we are stuck with a tall, sun blocking cookie cutter building, and realize we traded 4 historic buildings for it that can never be brought back. And if changes to the plans to make it appropriate means that it is not economically feasible for the developers, then there are more than enough parking lots downtown that they could develop without tearing down historic buildings. And I for one believe NULU and Butchertown are becoming desirable enough locations that in time the block would develop, and in ways that would better fit with the spirit and fabric of our neighborhood.
Butchertown is already pockmarked enough with ugly buildings that don’t fit in, and that undoubtedly replaced historic homes. Even though those homes might have been empty at the time, I for one wish for them now instead. The rational at the time was probably much the same as for the Main & Clay project… that some kind of development is better than nothing. But those homes would be in much demand now, and we are stuck instead with Mini Storage or empty cement block industrial buildings in their place.
Good for OPEN Louisville. The ARC should be ashamed of itself, and it makes you wonder what good they and our historic neighborhood designations are for anyway. People go to and enjoy places like New Orleans, Savannah and Charleston for good reason, and it is not to go to stay at a Hyatt Place and eat at Tumbleweed restaurants. It’s because of the historic feel of the cities, and due to the fact that they did not tear down and replace their historic buildings with quick fix development. We in Louisville are lucky in that we have more historic building stock left than most cities, but we continually bow down to the Todd Blues of the city and tear them down or mutilate them so that they can build parking lots or generic boring buildings that contribute nothing. Butchertown and NULU are in a renaissance, not because big developments like Main & Clay, but because of grass roots efforts of preservation and development… where were Main & Clay when the neighborhood was struggling? Now that it is a hot area, they want to come in and capitalize on the historic and independent feel of the neighborhood, while in fact helping to destroy it. There are some empty lots and run down houses still left in the neighborhood… bring in the Wal Mart!
Yes, we should grow up; lets start by refraining from using the hyperbolic “this is doomsday for Butchertown” language that this development seems to be so good at attracting. This isn’t Wal-Mart, or Family Dollar (which, if you remember, was promptly shown the door when they tried to set up shop not far from this site); its the kind of solid, dense, urban, mixed use building that Louisville’s urbanist community has been clamoring for for decades. No, Nulu would not make it on the demolition of every other old building, but that is an irrelevant point because that isn’t happening there (the boutique hotel is getting built on an already empty lot, so I don’t see what that has to do with anything here) nor is it happening on this block. Butchertown isn’t losing any “historic fabric” here because its already gone; whats left is a scattering of historic remnants mixed with nondescript, non-historic warehouse buildings. Does that say “Butchertown” to you, because the block strikes me as more of a no-man’s land between the actual historic Butchertown and downtown. What this development will do is bring hundreds of new residents to support businesses in Butchertown, Nulu, and downtown, bring new retail opportunities to what is currently a pretty quiet stretch of Main Street, and act to shield the rest of Butchertown from the visual and audio pollution of I-65. That’s a much better use of this key piece of land than what currently exists. The ARC recognized all of this, which is why they approved this development; it is also why OPEN Louisville’s appeal will hopefully be denied. I think Mr. Cornelius hit the nail on the head; all of the opposition is coming from outside the neighborhood. If the project has received support from the organizations representing the neighborhoods and businesses that this project will impact the most, then it has my support as well. I’m just sorry to see that the preservationist community is needlessly burning so much political capital by opposing this project.
I completely agree with the above poster. I am all for historic preservation and wish for that outcome above all others. There are certain instances where it just doesn’t make sense, like this block right next to the new bridge ramp nothing of historical context surrounding the area. The one building on the block that is worth saving was being incorporated into the plan I thought.
Thank you Porter, this project is exactly what Butchertown/NuLl needs. It is an economic imperative that Louisville overcome its resistance to density and contemporary architecture.
While I agree that dense, urban mixed use development may be needed near downtown, this isn’t New York City where every block is full.. there are tons empty lots (parking) to build upon in the downtown area where historic buildings would not need to be destroyed, and to me that is the biggest argument against. If there weren’t other locations considerable, or if they worked to build around the historic structures and make it a more conforming scale, I would support the development. You might not believe we are losing any historic fabric, but I, who live here, do think so. The historic buildings are under utilized currently, but if we only preserve the ones that are thriving, is their any need for a preservation movement at all? It’s not a beautiful block right now, but nor is it the ghetto. Infill and replacement of non contributing structures makes more sense to me than destroying what is historic just because there is not enough of it. And that to me is beside the fact that it is seven stories… way too large for it’s environment. Nearer downtown, that fits in, but nothing in the area is near that large. There are plenty of empty lots in the neighborhood that need development, but I wouldn’t support such non-conforming scale in any of them despite the need. It changes the neighborhood. And I think you overestimate the benefits of the development as a “shield” to I-65. I-65 and spaghetti junction are all around us, and I can’t imagine the addition of this building making a significant difference. And if we could build enough seven story buildings around us to actually make a significant shield, it is not a trade off I think worth making. The biggest shield effect it will have is from the sun for the building across East Washington St (a nicely preserved historic 3 story mixed use building, which is as tall as Butchertown currently gets).
You make some fair points M. But I will have disagree with you on the point of scale. In its prime, Butchertown once featured a wide mix of industrial, commercial, and residential buildings that came in all shapes and sizes. Granted, the majority of the historic architecture left is small-scale residential. But what about the Butchertown Market? By your standard, that massive building (which I believe is either 4 or 5 stories tall) is out of scale with the neighborhood; the old Oertel Brewery (were it still standing) would be out of scale too. Old school industrial neighborhoods like Butchertown have never been defined by a single “scale;” rather its the variety in building size and shape that gives them the very character that OPEN Louisville and friends are claiming to protect.
As a preservationist I worry about the future of preservation when so many people believe it is all or nothing. That there is always going to be a magical developer that is willing to lay down a large chunk of money to develop a historic neighborhood. I’m sorry I’m a pragmatist. Yes, I want to see every historic building saved the way it should be, but that’s not reality. Some buildings are too far gone to save and some meet bad developers, etc. Compromise is sometimes the best way to see a neighborhood revitalized. At least saving the building facades will retain some of the visual history and feel of the block. There have been several other facade projects that are successes. The Heigold House facade was saved and placed prominently on Frankfort Avenue. Several facades on West Main have been saved and three are now part of ReSurfaced. Many are fighting for the Omni Hotel project on Third and Muhammad Ali to at least save the facades of the four historic buildings remaining on the block. It is unclear what the fate of those buildings will be but hopefully a small part of them can be saved. I have heard so many people say preservationists want to stop progress, growth, and development. As preservationists it’s our job to show those people that we are pragmatic and understand how preservation and compromise actually encourage economic development. The more lines that are drawn in the sand, the less preservationists will even be a part of future conservations.
If you think preservation is such a loser then why do you prefer east market to the mall, or Butchertown to hikes point, or bother to understand that every single time you walk through Main Street or Bardstown road or Cherokee or the highlands or old louisville I could go on …….. You’d better thank those nutsos like me who made sure it was there for the new kids to screw up. Either or isn’t the choice!! Resurfaced is just failure to develop, not some wondrous thing to celebrate! Scale is one thing. It can be dealt with. If you incorporate real buildings Into a streetscape there is no need to paste on cartoons and feel all warm and fuzzy. Not all old buildings are beautiful wonders but taken as the quirky whole it makes a neighborhood real. Or y’all can just give it all up to the outside interests who won’t own the thing in five years anyway. Be local or wait for the other shoe to drop. And darlin it will………
Again with the hyperbolic language. No one here has said or thinks that preservation is a loser. I happen to love and applaud the efforts of preservationists that have helped saved so many of Louisville great historical landmarks and neighborhoods; its what makes Louisville such an awesome city. I grew up in a 100+ year old house in Clifton, and I want nothing more than to purchase and restore an old house (preferably a shotgun!) to live and grow old in.
But why is so bad to want a neighborhood to grow? To change and evolve? If this project were proposed in the heart of Washington St, I would be dead set against it. But that is simply not the case here; instead the site has been so mangled by past mistakes that any kind of historical context or character has already been lost. This block is neither Butchertown, Nulu, nor Downtown; it exists in this gritty and worn out “no mans land” that is searching for an identity. Why can’t this project give it one? Why can’t it be a mid-rise transition zone between a (one day) dense downtown and the true historic Butchertown?
The best neighborhoods and cities are not the ones that are frozen in any one time period. They are ones where buildings from multiple eras mix together, creating the variety of building size, shape, and age that make for truly interesting and attractive urban places. Why is it so bad to want that in Louisville?
By the way, I’m not sure how I feel about you belittling Resurfaced. Yes, it is not a substitute for having an actual building on the lot (that was not the project’s intended purpose, so I’m curios as to how you came to that conclusion). But it made for an interesting and wildly successful experiment in how we can activate disused spaces in an urban area; that brought people back to downtown and made Louisville that much more quirky and interesting. Not to mention that some really dedicated people worked their tails off to make that event happen. But hey, that is just me.
Unfortunately, Porter, the factors which you say the ARC recognized and supposedly used as justification are all outside the purview of the ARC. You’ve provided the beginnings of a solid argument in favor of the appeal.
You may very well be right, Jeff; I’m certainly no legal expert. I guess we will just have to see how thing play out.