(Editor’s note: Terry Boyd and Steve Coomes contributed to this post.)
Insider Louisville is pro-business, but we try to present all sides of issues.
So, this one is tricky … and getting trickier as notables such as WHAS Radio personality Terry Meiners weighs in along with Insider Louisville’s own Doug Stern.
(Doug’s take is in a separate post here.)
Sources keep us up-to-date on the very desirable former Azalea property, a.k.a. the site of Bauer’s “1870s” Restaurant, on Brownsboro Road, which is owned by the Bauer family. The property is for sale for about $1.5 million, according to our source.
Our entrepreneurial insiders all want it. Badly.
That location gets about as many looks as a stripper on her fourth song.
And it appears the outcome of lusting after either is equally fruitless: everyone walks away empty-handed knowing the cost of “going there” is way too high.
Those in want argue there are too many historic landmark restrictions on the old restaurant — which dates back to a 19th Century blacksmith shop — not to mention the myriad updates it will require to make it viable for redevelopment.
John Varanese, owner of Varanese, was a chef at Azalea, but left before it closed in 2007, so we asked him whether all the interest in the property was justified. He said, “That whole 1870s historic thing is nice and all, but the problem is it’ll take a ton of money to modernize it — especially that 1870s plumbing! … I bet you couldn’t get the insides respectable for anything less than $750,000.”
We had that conversation three years ago, which makes that plumbing 142 years old — just in case the preservationists aren’t counting.
Some 13 years later, there it sits: a decaying eyesore in the middle of Louisville’s wealthiest area, an area that includes Indian Hills, Mockingbird Gardens and Glenview (sort of).
Not a good thing. But there are all sorts of machinations in this story.
Which Meiners alludes to in his 3-minute “Blight vs. Might” video, which includes commentary/narrative, though he makes solid points while showing viewers the state of the building.
Here Meiners’ intro to the video:
As multiple parties squabble over what to do with the old Bauer’s, it sits in disrepair and diminishes the home values in its neighborhood. A recent Louisville Metro Council vote bolstered its own power over designations sanctioned by Preservation Louisville and/or Mayor Greg Fischer’s landmarks commission. Should be interesting to watch. In the meantime, can someone opposed to new development please slap a coat of paint on this building, tear out the weeds, and chase away the rats? The people of 1870 took care of this property. If we are preserving history, allowing Bauer’s to turn into a decrepit dump besmirches the reputation of the founders. UPDATE: Preservationists want their unilateral power restored.
Meiners’ narrative is a lot more pointed and entertaining.
As he pans the building and its tattered aluminum siding, he says, “… someone needs to come over and clean up this mess. Otherwise, everybody around here, their property values start to roll backward because this dump is just sitting here day after day, month after month, year after year. Some people say it should be preserved for future generations to enjoy all those cinder blocks and aluminum siding. Others want to turn it into a business, and some people with power don’t want a business here.”
Meiners apparently is referring to University of Louisville men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino, who fought the proposed construction of a drugstore on the Bauer’s site, declaring publicly that he wasn’t going “to live behind a Rite Aid.”
Hmm. Is a clean new business preferable to a ramshackle restaurant, Coach P? And it’s not as though you’re actually “behind” it anyway. Even if you climb the roof of your house — which is on the market anyway, so do you care anymore? — you still can’t see the bedraggled Bauer’s property.
We tried to talk with Meiners about his video, but he did not return calls for comment.
We hope he will so we can update this story.