Feature photo of Grinstead Dr at Everett Ave courtesy of The University of Louisville Photographic Archive
There’s an old saying that I made up yesterday, and it’s all about the good things and the bad things that preservation efforts can create within a community. I’m talking about a wide variety of things when I say “preservation”. Throughout the city of Louisville there are seven different historic preservation districts, as well as numerous individual properties that have been placed in a “Historic Landmark” status. There are great benefits to preserving historic styles and representations, however one might also find that too much regulation creates a negative effect.
A preservation district is an area of town that has been deemed to have historical significance and reflects an important time period in our city’s history. Property owners within the historic preservation district must adhere to strict guidelines regarding any improvements or changes made to the building or the grounds, and such changes must be approved before moving forward.
In the Highlands, we have the Cherokee Triangle Historic Preservation District. With so many homes in the area that were built in the early 1900s, the commission overseeing preservation efforts decided that it was important for all homes in the area to remain time-period specific. During the 50s and 60s, quality of life in the area was declining, and it was losing its luster. In 1975 the Cherokee Triangle was named a historic preservation district, and soon after that it was recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. In the 80s and 90s the Triangle began climbing back from the despair that it once knew, and now the Cherokee Triangle is an example of preservation that has done what it is intended to do. Property values in the Triangle remain high and steady, and the beauty and charm of the area remain intact. This is a win-win.
The Limerick Preservation District encompasses an area between 4th St and 8th St along West St Catherine near Old Louisville. The area was named a local historic preservation district in 1979, and very little improvement has been noted since then. Old Louisville contains the largest collection of Victorian homes in the United States. Most of these homes are 3-story giants with more than 4,000 sq ft of living space, and selling one of these massive homes as a single family residence can be a difficult task. Many of them have been transformed into 2, 3, or 4-unit buildings in order to occupy them. Preserving the Victorian look and feel within the area is very important, and any regulation that prohibits major changes to the facade of the building is absolutely necessary. The problem comes when special zoning requirements get in the way. There is still an overwhelming number of vacant and/or dilapidated properties in the Limerick Preservation District that are just sitting and dying. The only people that are willing to buy these properties are investors who will fix them and rent them out. If special zoning prohibits an investor from using the buildings as multi-family dwellings, the investor won’t buy them. If no one buys these buildings, they will fall even further into disrepair, negating the whole purpose for the preservation district in the first place.
Stunting Our Growth
Last year, local developer Steve Poe unveiled his plans to build a new hotel in downtown Louisville on the corner of 1st and Main. With all the amazing revitalization that is already taking place downtown and in the NuLu district, city officials were eager to see this project, one of the largest downtown projects this year, come to fruition. The existing building at the corner of 1st and Main formerly housed Marine Electric, however it has been vacant for more than two years. Out of the blue comes a local “preservationist” who plans to challenge the build by having the existing building declared a historic landmark. FIRST – Steve Poe already planned on incorporating the existing facade of the Marine Electric building into his new design (sounds like preservation). SECOND – This building has been empty for more than two years. THIRD – For the last 100+ years no one has felt the need to declare this building a historic landmark. This is a total sham, and a perfect example of people claiming “preservation” when they are actually stunting the growth of our amazing city, and allowing yet another building to fall apart and die.
Look, I’m all for preservation when it’s actually preserving something, but people in the city of Louisville need to be aware that there is good and there is bad packaged with the title of preservation. This is just my Realtor point of view, but I say we try to work together to preserve what needs preserving, and allow growth where opportunities present themselves.
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