Metro Councilman Dan Johnson
Metro Councilman Dan Johnson

Metro Councilman Dan Johnson, D-21, called for a protest of a Little Caesars store in his district on Facebook last Wednesday, hoping to “drive them out” of the location so that developers at Underhill Associates can begin to renovate the historic Colonial Gardens property the city purchased last year.

On a thread of the Beechmont Neighborhood Association’s Facebook page concerning Colonial Gardens and Little Caesars, Johnson commented “little caesars has a place to go lets go protest it one night soon” and “They are in the way lets protest them soon.”

On a separate thread later that night, Johnson added “i have found a place for little caesars to go lets protest little caesars so they will get the message soon … Then colonial will be perfect.” Johnson also commented that “they have to go before underhills will start so lets drive them out now”

After someone commented that this would not be fair to the owner of Little Caesars, Johnson responded with “bs.”

Metro Government bought the neglected Colonial Gardens property in south Louisville for $430,000 last year, hoping to find a developer who would convert the space for local business. This April, the city announced it would give the property to Underhill Associates for free and offer a $1.2 million construction grant as an incentive. However, construction would only begin once the adjoining Little Caesars franchise moved to a new location, which has not happened yet.

LittleCaesars-logoMike Michalak, the franchisee who owns several Little Caesars stores in Louisville, is out of town and unavailable for comment, but one of his employees told Insider Louisville he has been in discussions with the Underhills and he is unaware of the calls for protest by Councilman Johnson.

Jeff Underhill of Underhill Associates tells Insider Louisville he has nothing to do with Johnson’s call for a protest to drive out Little Caesars.

“I’m not going to get into that, I have no feud with them,” says Underhill. “People have a right to choose to go to that business or not.”

Underhill says Little Caesars has the legal right to stay there through their lease that expires in 2016, and he hopes the city can find a suitable new location for Michalak. But until that time, Underhill says there is not enough space available on the property to start and complete reconstruction of Colonial Gardens. He says he and his brother — fellow owner Todd Underhill — have had several conversations with Michalak about the relocation.

Colonial Gardens
Colonial Gardens

Councilman Johnson has long been an advocate for the Underhills redeveloping the Colonial Gardens property, and his most recent campaign filing with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance shows the Underhills are an advocate of the councilman. Johnson’s last KREF filing shows that Todd (George) Underhill donated the maximum $1,000 contribution to him on June 13, well after Johnson’s primary victory in May. Johnson only faces write-in candidate John Witt on the ballot this November, the same candidate who won 3 percent of the vote in his challenge to Johnson in 2006.

Todd Underhill did not return a call from Insider Louisville seeking comment.

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]


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