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Representatives from Bristol Development Corp. and Nashville-based Smith Gee Studios presented plans for a new, luxury apartment building to the Butchertown Neighborhood Association on Monday evening.

Around 40 people showed up to hear Charles Carlisle, CEO of Bristol, and Fleming Smith of Smith Gee present plans for the seven-story, 260-unit “community” on East Main Street bounded by Clay and Washington streets. The site currently is under contract.

When they opened the meeting up for a Q&A session, it quickly became contentious.

Currently, the property is almost entirely commercial with only one residence — a historic three-apartment brick home, affectionately referred to as the “red door house” on the block. Two of those apartments are occupied but are rented on a month-to-month basis. Two other “historically contributing” buildings are on the property: one occupied by Hyland Glass and the other by Trompeter Wholesaling.

The corner of East Main and Clay Street — a portion of the property in question.
The corner of East Main and Clay Street — a portion of the property in question.

According to Carlisle, every effort will be made to preserve the character of these buildings in the construction of the apartment building. The “red door house” will serve as an entryway into a green space that will include a dog run and a pet spa.

The Hyland Glass facade
The Hyland Glass building facade

The plan is to detach the facade of the Hyland building, store it offsite, and then ultimately reattach it to the building. They hope to do the same with the Trompeter building, but it’s in a more fragile state. Regardless, they will preserve the historic bricks from the building and recreate the facade if necessary. They also are hoping to buy the iconic Native American plaque on the building and reattach it as well.

Bristol has been in business for 15 years and has developed 31 condo and apartment communities in seven states. They specialize in urban infill development, though currently they are developing the Veranda apartments in Norton Commons. The first units for that development will be available to rent at the end of 2014; construction is planned to be completed in mid-2015.

The Butchertown  apartments would range in size from 550 – 1,800 square feet and would be priced between $1,000 and $3,000 in monthly rent. Most apartments would be one or two bedrooms with some three-bedroom townhouses scattered throughout the property.

Amenities include the aforementioned dog run and pet spa; a rooftop recreation deck with a pool, clubhouse, fire pits and outdoor kitchens; fitness center; a street-level patio and several other gathering places throughout the building. Bristol has set aside 2,400 square feet for potential retail space plus a retail outdoor patio and are willing to expand that area should there be enough interest.

The building also will have an underground garage that will have enough parking spaces for all of the residents and the retail tenants.

The property already is zoned for such a development, but the complex still needs to pass through the Butchertown Architecture Review Committee. Their next meeting is Dec. 10, so Bristol is soliciting community feedback before that presentation. If they gain the approval of that committee, the developers must go before the city’s Development Review Board and the Permitting Committee. If all goes smoothly, Bristol plans to break ground around May 2015, with construction slated to take approximately 20 months.

While much of the feedback from the audience was positive, there was some very vocal opposition to the development. Banter between the two camps ranged from passive aggressive to downright aggressive.

A man from the Portland neighborhood called the development “crap” and “stupid” and cited the 4,000 vacant and abandoned properties in the city that should be developed. “Why are we destroying Butchertown?” he said. “Historic neighborhoods need to band together.” He said Bristol should be glad they didn’t propose a property like this in his neighborhood because his neighbors would’ve run them out of town.

A Butchertown man explained how hard the neighborhood and other residents of the city worked to claim Butchertown as a historic district more than a decade ago.

A woman who indicated she had a long history in preservation said, “How do you drop an elephant in the middle of Butchertown and expect that to work?” She was moved to tears both over the modern design of the building and the cost of the rent.

Both she and the Portland man left the event early.

Rick Schardein, CEO of Current360 — where the meeting was held — said he’s been doing business in Butchertown for 28 years and he’s pleased with the plan. David Harned and Larry Cox, owners of Twisted Salon in St. Matthews, live in the neighborhood and also welcomed the development, saying that jogging around that block currently is bleak and depressing.

When Insider noted that $1,000 for a 550-square-foot apartment was well above the average going rate for apartments in Louisville and asked Carlisle who their intended market was, he said millennials and empty-nesters.

Are millennials making that kind of bank? Cox said many of his clients are — especially those with dual incomes.

Carlisle said his company arrived at this price point through an “internal market study.”

Other criticisms of the building included its height (it is significantly taller than nearby buildings), modernity and blandness.

Carlisle acknowledged that feelings were “very hot” over the development, and he would take criticism under consideration. But he noted that “economically we can’t make this work for a smaller” development on that particular property.

We attempted to contact Marianne Zickuhr, executive director of Preservation Louisville, for comment, but she was at a conference and unavailable.

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