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.
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.
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!