The scope and density of a new mixed-use development at Grinstead Drive and Lexington Road has nearby Cherokee Triangle resident worried.
Roughly 30 people attended a meeting Thursday that gave residents of the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood a chance to learn more about the proposed development and offer their input for what should be constructed on the property bound by Grinstead Drive, Lexington Road and Etley Avenue. A similar meeting was held the day before for Irish Hill residents and another is planned tonight for Crescent Hill residents.
The development in question is the brainchild of Louisville developer Kevin Cogan, owner of Jefferson Development Group. Cogan plans to tear down all the buildings on the triangle-shaped property and in their place erect retail and restaurant space, office, an upscale hotel and apartments.
IL previously reported that Cogan bought up all but one of the parcels in the triangle adjacent to Cave Hill Cemetery and Cherokee Park for more than $6 million. The final parcel, which NuYale Cleaners owns, is now under contract to be purchased as well.
Residents generally liked that someone planned to develop the block and tear down the existing buildings, several of which are an eyesore.
“One of the things I like is it gets rid of the hodgepodge of buildings there,” said Tim Holz, outgoing president of the Cherokee Triangle Neighborhood Association. “I like mixed use. I like retail. I like the thought of everything going in there.”
However, speakers questioned how the design fit in with its surroundings and said they’d like to see the development downsized.
“Goodness gracious, you are going to put all of that in there. That’s awful,” said Patricia Ballard, a resident of the 20-story neoclassic condominium 1400 Willow in Cherokee Triangle.
Louisville attorney Bill Bardenwerper, a partner at Bardenwerper Talbott & Roberts PLLC representing Cogan, perhaps summed up people’s feelings best.
“Some people call them world-class ideas,” he said, “some people call them out of place.”
Cogan has clashed with residents of Cherokee Triangle in the past. The neighborhood association filed two lawsuits against his Willow Grande project, a proposed 15-story luxury condo building at the corner of Willow and Baringer avenues, where the three-story Bordeaux Apartments have stood since the 1960s.
The project at Lexington and Grinstead may be at least double the height. Current plans call for three towers that are anywhere from 30 stories to 40 stories tall, Bardenwerper said. The development will cost in excess of $200 million and possibly more than $300 million, depending on the final plans.
“It’s a spectacular amount of building,” said project architect Robin Donhoff, CEO of Tucker Booker Donhoff + Partners, describing it as a “live, work, play” development.
Current plans call for a 240-room hotel and 700 to 740 apartments, which would likely range in size from 850 square feet to 1,600 square feet, according to preliminary drawings presented at Wednesday’s meeting.
“Right now, there is great demand for urban apartments,” Bardenwerper said, adding that rates would depend on market conditions.
The development doesn’t include affordable housing units now, but that could change in the future since Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government has been pressuring developers to build affordable apartments, Bardenwerper said.
“We just can’t get around that these days,” he said. “There is just enormous pressure to do that.”
Although they could not provide total square footage for the project, current plans include more than 180,000 square feet of office space and 50,000 to 60,000 square feet for restaurants and shops. A six-story parking garage would be constructed on the interior of the property, with the roof serving as a courtyard and green space.
Holz questioned whether the area had the infrastructure to support such a large development.
“We don’t even have a bus line,” he said.
Once the project is under construction or built, Donhoff said TARC may add routes around the Lexington Road and Grinstead Drive intersection to accommodate the people living and working there. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem.
“This is a game changer,” he said, which elicited a few scoffs.
Donhoff assured those at the meeting that building out the infrastructure or ensuring it already exists will be a large part of the project.
Attendees also asked about the additional traffic the project would generate at an already congested section of Louisville. A traffic survey found that about 4,200 vehicles an hour travel through the intersection. A traffic engineer on the project said the development is expected to add about 1,000 trips during the peak traffic hour.
And while people driving down Lexington Road from downtown or Grinstead Drive from Crescent Hill would be able to simply turn right onto Etley Avenue to access the development, those coming down Grinstead from Bardstown Road would have to make a left turn on Etley Avenue — cars can’t turn left at the light — which could cause more traffic troubles, residents argued.
A few people took issue with the look of the development, which Donhoff said could be built using limestone, brick masonry and glass. Cherokee Triangle is filled with neoclassical and Tudor Revival style homes.
“You want to put in high-rises and something that has nothing to do with this neighborhood,” said resident Federico Elbl. “I personally don’t want Louisville to look like Boston or New York. I want it to look like Louisville. …Besides the economical standpoint, I don’t think this brings anything that is beneficial to Louisville.”
Elbl said his parents can’t even change their house’s gutters the way they would like because of the requirements laid out by the historical society, and now Cogan wants to change “the whole dynamic of the neighborhood.”
The only concrete suggestions of the night were to set the buildings back from the sidewalks to allow for sidewalk seating at restaurants, include plenty of trees, consider making the buildings 10 stories or fewer, and make the development fit the neighborhood — similar to the planned Phoenix Hill mixed-use project.
While a shorter development could be profitable, Bardenwerper said Cogan wants to move Louisville forward with this project and do something different.
“He’s thinking Louisville needs to do some great things, not just some regular things,” he said.
Jefferson Development Group is already planning to have a second round of meetings in mid-July where residents of Irish Hill, Cherokee Triangle and Crescent Hill will once again be able to offer input on the development.
“It takes three-quarters (of these initial meetings) to get a grasp on ‘What are you doing here?’ and toward the end tonight, we probably got more design ideas,” he said. “I think by the second meeting it will have sunk in more to people that there is the potential for something dramatically different here.”