The design evolution of Willow Grande, now conceived as smaller and more traditional.

This post falls under the axiom of “there’s no such thing as a impartial reporter.”

I am fortunate enough to live in the Cherokee Triangle, which for my money (and I don’t have much) is one of the greatest urban neighborhoods in the world outside of Passy in Paris and maybe Beyoğlu in Istanbul.

Yesterday, I started noticing swarms of new yard signs popping up on my street, signs reading, “Size Matters,”and exhorting our historic little slice of Louisville to oppose Willow Grande.

Those signs mark a new offensive by The Cherokee Triangle Association against Willow Grande, developer Kevin Cogan’s proposed 17-story luxury condominium development on Willow Avenue at Baringer Avenue.

The Willow Grande would replace the The Bordeaux Apartments, among the saddest apartment complexes in the Triangle.

Opponents are scheduled to meet Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at 1439 Willow Ave. for a front yard rally and sign distribution session.

The rally comes ahead of next week’s Louisville Metro Planning Commission hearing on the Willow Grande.

This is from the news release we got yesterday from The Cherokee Triangle Association:

BACKGROUND: Neighbors are organizing to make their case before the Louisville Metro Planning Commission that the 17-story Willow Grande condominium should not be built in Cherokee Triangle. The Willow Grande, as proposed, violates the neighborhood’s zoning code written specifically for The Cherokee Triangle Neighborhood Plan, which was approved by the city in 1989. This blueprint limits building size to preserve the neighborhood’s historic feel and unique character. If the Planning Commission votes to approve the developer’s request for an unprecedented zoning change, the message will be clear; every neighborhood plan for sensible development in Louisville can be easily undone. Cherokee Triangle Association will make it equally clear to the Planning Commission that “Size Matters” not only in Cherokee Triangle but in every neighborhood in our city.

I actually do sympathize with both parties.

I make it a policy to not have “friends,” but I have to say I admire Cogan.

Cogan’s Jefferson Development Group has built a number of quality projects, and his redevelopment of the strip center at 1706 Bardstown Road, home to Sapporo Sushi and other restaurants, was a game changer in the Highlands. His Villages of Audubon on Poplar Level Road brought quality retail to the Audubon Park area.

The newly renovated Aquarius Apartments on Cherokee Road.

Cogan also just renovated the Aquarius Apartments in the 100 block of Cherokee Road, turning what was the worst in 1960s stairwell apartment designs into  a complex that blends into the area down to its real gas lamps.

Willow Grande – which has fewer units than the Bordeaux Apartments it would replace – has made it through years of Landmarks Commission reviews, neighborhood meetings, public input and appeals, with the commission ruling it appropriate for the surrounding area.

Cogan has made multiple changes to the design to make it blend into the neighborhood.

I have a difficult time understanding why a 17-story, high-end condo building in a neighborhood that already has three high-rise luxury apartment buildings in two blocks – including the much larger 1400 Willow – would be out of character.

All that said, while I would love to live in it, I’m not sure I would want to live near the Willow Grande during a construction period that is likely to last more than a year.

Also, neighbors are right to worry that Cogan could get it partially completed, then run out of money.

That happened in the 1970s with 1400 Willow. The shell of what is now the most expensive real estate in Louisville sat abandoned and decaying for years.

Cogan has stated he has preliminary financial backing for the project at a time when so many people are paying big money to live in The Highlands. And he has a track record.

Ultimately, this is a neighborhood debate.

I find the whole yard sign campaign thing an annoying but effective communication tool, a healthy indicator of an engaged society. Though certainly not an accurate gauge of organic opposition.

The last one, “Move Your Chiller,” aimed at Highland Presbyterian’s supposedly noisy air conditioning unit, spread signs at least a mile away from the area and became a weird cause celebre. Against a popular neighborhood church. Go figure.

Still, there’s more than a whiff of “change is bad” to the “Size Matters” campaign. Which is troubling for someone such as me who is both pro-growth and pro-preservation.

If I have a sense of how this turns out, I’d predict – based on the outcome of the Bauer Property debate last month – zoning authorities may go with precedent and give Mr. Cogan his permits.

Why?

The Bauer Property, for all its historical significance, was – like the Aquarius – a grotesque eyesore, out of character for the area, and deteriorated to the point it couldn’t be retrofitted for any reasonable amount of money.

Even preservationist Eleanor Bingham voted for the redevelopment plan there.

But to the neighbors, I say, “Never underestimate the power of public opinion. You have legitimate concerns.”

May the best argument prevail!

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Terry Boyd
Terry Boyd has seven years experience as a business/finance journalist, and eight years a military reporter with European Stars and Stripes. As a banking and finance reporter at Business First, Boyd dealt directly with the most influential executives and financiers in Louisville.

17 thoughts on “'Size Matters' yard sign campaign marks new war between Willow Grande developer, opponents

  1. You left out the most egregious problem with Willow Grade: It eliminates and displaces those living in, affordable housing, at a time when affordable housing is at an absolute crisis level in our city, leading to record homelessness.

    You want to be able to walk to dinner at fancy restaurants, you want the servers and wait staff to be exploited by the close friends of your star contributor, then you want to ban them from your neighborhood?

    Also, Edie Bingham is on the Individual Landmarks/ARC Committee, not Eleanor (whoever that is)- and she only voted for the Bauer redevelopment plan when the developer made unprecedented concessions that were deserving of reward.

    This case is completely unrelated to that one, but if Cogan gets his permits it’s not because Willow Grande fits in, but because Cherokee Triangle snobs actually hate poor people as much as the developer loves cash.

  2. You left out the most egregious problem with Willow Grade: It eliminates and displaces those living in, affordable housing, at a time when affordable housing is at an absolute crisis level in our city, leading to record homelessness.

    You want to be able to walk to dinner at fancy restaurants, you want the servers and wait staff to be exploited by the close friends of your star contributor, then you want to ban them from your neighborhood?

    Also, Edie Bingham is on the Individual Landmarks/ARC Committee, not Eleanor (whoever that is)- and she only voted for the Bauer redevelopment plan when the developer made unprecedented concessions that were deserving of reward.

    This case is completely unrelated to that one, but if Cogan gets his permits it’s not because Willow Grande fits in, but because Cherokee Triangle snobs actually hate poor people as much as the developer loves cash.

  3. would be nice to have skyscrapers near Cherokee area… away from downtown…. a few along the park would be really nice…….

  4. Oh please. What do you think the Triangle was like post tornado, pre-Landmarks? A haven for slumlords and quickie infill apartments (like the Hilarious Aquarius, Camelot…..), with historic housing hitting the dumpsters faster than the west side these days. The point here is that the rezoning accomplishes the right to squeeze 50+ units on the site (who is selling million dollar units in this town?), in a high rise reminiscent of 60’s cheapo “affordable” housing. That’s the worst case scenario. Zoning isn’t about rich or poor, it’s about compatibility and density. The folks in the Triangle fought to reclaim their neighborhood when no one else would. Shame on them!
    As for Bauer’s, exactly what “concessions” were given? The historic building gets demolished, the rural site is destroyed and all trees removed, you get a Chilis lookalike facing an asphalt parking lot and the developer conceded saving two studs of the historic building. Wahoo. Talk about rich people abdicating responsibility for their neighborhood.

  5. Oh please. What do you think the Triangle was like post tornado, pre-Landmarks? A haven for slumlords and quickie infill apartments (like the Hilarious Aquarius, Camelot…..), with historic housing hitting the dumpsters faster than the west side these days. The point here is that the rezoning accomplishes the right to squeeze 50+ units on the site (who is selling million dollar units in this town?), in a high rise reminiscent of 60’s cheapo “affordable” housing. That’s the worst case scenario. Zoning isn’t about rich or poor, it’s about compatibility and density. The folks in the Triangle fought to reclaim their neighborhood when no one else would. Shame on them!
    As for Bauer’s, exactly what “concessions” were given? The historic building gets demolished, the rural site is destroyed and all trees removed, you get a Chilis lookalike facing an asphalt parking lot and the developer conceded saving two studs of the historic building. Wahoo. Talk about rich people abdicating responsibility for their neighborhood.

  6. Zoning isn’t about the rich & poor? When “folks in the Triangle fought to reclaim their neighborhood,” who precisely did they reclaim it from?

    But your point about Bauer’s concessions being a little on the light side is legit. My point there was more about Bauer’s not being a precedent for this. The Bauer’s deal didn’t involve housing, which is a different ballgame.

  7. Zoning isn’t about the rich & poor? When “folks in the Triangle fought to reclaim their neighborhood,” who precisely did they reclaim it from?

    But your point about Bauer’s concessions being a little on the light side is legit. My point there was more about Bauer’s not being a precedent for this. The Bauer’s deal didn’t involve housing, which is a different ballgame.

  8. Developers of quickie apartment buildings like the Aquarius, and zoning that allowed the houses to be torn into umpteen rental unitsThe Highlands in the 60’s and 70’s didn’t look like it does now. Neither did Bardstown Road. The residents took control of their own neighborhoods at a time when government actually backed that effort. In 1988 the entire neighborhood was rezoned to encourage more single family and duplex in lieu of the 8-12 units per house that was the trend. History teaches important lessons but you have to do the homework. Right now the selling trend is smaller affordable units for folks just starting out, or wishing to downsize. Architects in NYC are experimenting with this design based trend to see how much you can get in smaller spaces, euro-sized.

  9. Developers of quickie apartment buildings like the Aquarius, and zoning that allowed the houses to be torn into umpteen rental unitsThe Highlands in the 60’s and 70’s didn’t look like it does now. Neither did Bardstown Road. The residents took control of their own neighborhoods at a time when government actually backed that effort. In 1988 the entire neighborhood was rezoned to encourage more single family and duplex in lieu of the 8-12 units per house that was the trend. History teaches important lessons but you have to do the homework. Right now the selling trend is smaller affordable units for folks just starting out, or wishing to downsize. Architects in NYC are experimenting with this design based trend to see how much you can get in smaller spaces, euro-sized.

  10. The project received an amazing amount of community support!!
    Over 345 Household in the Neighborhood signed letters of SUPPORT for this project!!!
    Let’s support this world class developement!

  11. The project received an amazing amount of community support!!
    Over 345 Household in the Neighborhood signed letters of SUPPORT for this project!!!
    Let’s support this world class developement!

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