Some Louisville residents in and around the Paristown Pointe neighborhood have received fliers in their mailbox asking them to oppose development at the Urban Government Center, 810 Barret Ave., while others may have seen similar messages appear online in the last two days.
The fliers and online posts have the same message: Come to a meeting at 6 p.m. tonight, July 25, at Highland Community Ministries, 936 Barret Ave., and voice your concerns about the plans to redevelop the Urban Government Center.
Justin Brown, a principal with the local development company, told Insider in mid-July that the July 25 meeting, which The Marian Group is hosting, will focus solely on development on a two-acre lot at 814 Vine St. that is part of the broader Urban Government Center project.
The Marian Group was chosen to restore the vacant property to use, beating out plans presented by four other developers — Lifestyle Communities, Steve Smith, Underhill Associates and Weyland Ventures. The Marian Group’s plan calls for, among other things, single-family houses, a multi-family housing complex for Family Scholar House, commercial space, market-rate apartments, a multi-use community center and parking garage.
Prior to choosing The Marian Group, city officials hosted public meetings asking residents how they’d like to see the property be revitalized. The city held an open call for developers to submit proposals, and each developers’ proposal was posted online where people could comment on what they liked and what they didn’t like. The city then hosted more public meetings where residents could ask questions as well as provide feedback.
The proposals then went before a nine-person evaluation committee comprised of five Metro employees and four residents, who delved deeper into the details and made a final recommendation to Louisville Metro leaders. The city announced in December that The Marian Group was selected and signed a formal development agreement earlier this month. According to score sheets provided by Louisville Metro, The Marian Group narrowly edged out Underhill Associates as the top proposal.
The flier circulating and a post on Nextdoor are nearly identical in their wording. The flier does not identify who sent it, but Cindy Pablo, a member of the Paristown Pointe Neighborhood Association, posted the item on Nextdoor.
Both the flier and post question the scoring process — specifically asking why The Marian Group was given more points in one category than Underhill Associates — and argue that all the developers should be allowed to alter their proposals and submit them for reevaluation.
“The proposal that was selected, which was submitted by Marian Group, both fails to meet key requests made by the area residents and neighbors and includes things they specifically said they did not want — and to a much greater degree than several of the other proposals,” the Nextdoor post states.
It does not detail what those specific uses are, but Pablo told Insider previously that she wanted more green space than The Marian Group’s proposal provided and did not want Family Scholar House locating housing in the neighborhood. The housing would caterer to low-income single parents who are enrolled in college or vocational school, according to The Marian Group.
The post and flier say that The Marian Group made material changes to its plans since proposals were presented to residents and other developers should be allowed to do so as well. They claim that The Marian Group has eliminated a hotel from its plans; however, the development agreement signed with the city this month specifically mentions the possibility of a hotel at the Urban Government Center site.
Both also note that The Marian Group plans to build 22 shotgun houses on Vine Street, which the developer did change. The original proposal called for 12 shotgun houses at the site.
The writings criticized the city for agreeing to sell the two-acre Vine Street site to The Marian Group for $1. Offering developers a chance to buy vacant or undeveloped properties at a low price is a common incentive used by the city; that practice has recently come under fire though after development company Hollenbach-Oakley made a $525,000 profit off selling land it promised to develop but never did.
The flier and Nextdoor post also encourage residents to sign a Change.org petition created by an individual named Eli Kurtz. As of 9 a.m., the online petition had a dozen signatures.
The petition asks the city to place an “indefinite hold” on development at the Urban Government Center “until the questions and concerns outlined above are addressed and have been met to the satisfaction of the residents and neighbors whose wants, needs, concerns, and desires were supposed to be an integral consideration in the development of 810 Barret Avenue.”
Insider reached out to the city’s economic development arm Louisville Forward, which spearheaded the process, for comment specifically about the petition and posts.
In an emailed response, Louisville Forward spokeswoman Jessica Wethington stated: “We’re excited about the neighborhood meeting and the progress Marian Group is making toward the redevelopment of the Vine Street lot.”
Insider also called Brown with The Marian Group for comment.
He replied via text message saying: “With regards to anything process related (which that petition talks about), that isn’t something we have any control over — the City was fully in control of that, and it was their process. We put the best team and plan together that we could and went through the same process everyone else did. Obviously, we are very pleased to have been selected and proud of our team and plan.”