Pending approval from Louisville Metro Council, Columbus, Ohio-based developer Edwards Cos. is ready to buy up the 39 lots at the corner of Baxter Avenue and Broadway it needs to build a four-story, 260-unit apartment complex.
Although not a done deal, Metro Council rarely votes down developments the Planning Commission has recommended for approval. And the commission yesterday unanimously approved the development plan for the Phoenix Hill project as well as requests for re-zoning, variances and a landscaping-related waiver.
Insider Louisville reported last year that the company was working on an unnamed development at the prominent corner that connects downtown, Phoenix Hill and the Highlands.
Once the plans are approved, Edward Cos. would look to close on the purchase of the properties in July and aim to start construction in the fall, according to Bill Bardenwerper, a partner with Bardenwerper, Talbott & Roberts PLLC who is representing Edwards Cos.
The company is working with the city on a possible industrial revenue bond, which is a tax-exempt government loan, to help cover some of the cost of the project, Bardenwerper said. The most recent cost estimate is north of $52 million.
The apartments will be a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Amenities will include a pool, three landscaped courtyards, a theater, a fitness center, a business center, a lounge and a large community room.
Edwards Cos. asked to rezone the 39 properties from residential, office residential, C-1 and C-2 to commercial residential and C-2. The rezoning will allow for the apartments as well as 31,000 square feet of first-floor retail, which could include restaurants, boutiques and a salon. A fresh market and a drugstore have expressed interest in the property, according to city documents.
The two variances will allow the building to be set back more than five feet from the corner of Baxter Avenue and Broadway and reach a height of 60 feet.
Bardenwerper said having four stories allows the company to build enough apartment units to make the venture profitable.
The height variance also is necessary to build a parking garage at the center of the development, he said, adding that the five-story, 550-car parking garage will alleviate some parking congestion in the surrounding area by offering parking spots to the public.
The parking garage will cost Edward Cos. about $10 million at that location, while the same garage would only cost about $1.5 million in the suburbs, Bardenwerper said, noting the company’s investment in the neighborhood.
Only one resident attended the Planning Commission meeting to speak out against the project. Mike Lyon, who lives near the proposed complex, said he thinks the development is “inappropriate” for the neighborhood, calling the design “bland,” “boring” and “not distinctive.”
“This is a very unique and distinct residential neighborhood,” he said. “We need to preserve the character.”
Bardenwerper pointed to the single opposition speaker as an indication of a job well done. He and representatives from Edwards Cos. hosted seven to 10 meetings with area residents throughout the process, Bardenwerper said, and adjusted their plans a bit in response to citizen comment.
For example, the company decided to preserve and renovate five homes along Broadway rather than tearing them down to expand the apartment complex.
“This plan here is obviously the work of a lot of good architects, but it’s also community input,” Bardenwerper said.
The Planning Commission agreed with Bardenwerper.
“It just looks really nice,” said commission chair Donnie Blake. “Seeing a design like this, you just hope it gets built.”