For some 7,000 – 10,000 daily drivers it’s the way to work, the way home, or some sort of cut-through from I-64 to their next destination. But I think we can all agree that it’s the ugliest way to enter one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city. Immediately off of I-64 from the Grinstead Drive exit, you cross Lexington Road to be greeted by a raggedy gas station and its 4-story tall empty “sign”. Continue on to find and old “luxury car lot” that has less than one tenth of the surface parking that the neighboring restaurant, KT’s has (which never made sense to me), an old pet shop that looks like it could collapse at any moment, and a beauty salon that has been empty for at least five years. All of this weirdness I just described is surrounded by beauty. Attention is now being drawn to the fact that the Jefferson Development Group, headed by Kevin Cogan, has decided to buy the majority of the real estate parcels that comprise this awkward, pie-shaped city block. There is quite a bit of speculation about what changes will be made, but our hope is that the less-than-sexy gateway to our city will be made better. So let’s define “better” by discussing the problems.
As it sits right now, this area is unfriendly to walking. The intersection at Grinstead and Lexington is wicked busy. Vehicles float through there at the speed of light and no one is ever paying attention. On the park side of Grinstead, there is a huge sidewalk and even a walking path along the pond. If there was some way to connect one side of the street to the park side via an above-the-road walkway, or continue the existing road diet, it would make things safer for those who are not driving 174 mph.
Speaking of safety and the Grinstead Dr road diet, there is a huge push for bike lanes in Louisville as of late. Whether you understand it or not, it’s a movement that’s sweeping the nation, and Louisville likes to be part of these types of things. The existing configuration doesn’t allow for much bicycle space. If a serious revamp of the pie shaped point at Grinstead and Lexington involves residential space as well as commercial, there will be no choice but to consider more bike lanes and possibly a new speed limit for just a portion of the road.
The entrance to Cherokee Park is easy to get to… as long as you’re on the park side of Lexington and Grinstead. If you’re not, getting there is like running an obstacle course where the alternative to success is death. Also, this is technically Irish Hill, and why must it be so difficult for Irish Hill residents to get to Cherokee Park?
Speaking of Irish Hill, let’s mix in Crescent Hill and Clifton as well. If done correctly, this city block renovation will provide a nice connection between some of the coolest neighborhoods in the country with a cohesive flow. I-64 doesn’t have to interrupt the neighborhood feel that already exists on both sides. Let’s not forget the greenway at Beargrass Creek. No matter how controversial The Woods at Lexington Road is, it’s residential and it’s not going anywhere. Additional residential and better planned commercial would only strengthen this area.
Some rumors surrounding the recent real estate purchases by the Jefferson Development Group include an 18-story condo tower. If that’s true, I doubt it will ever get approved. Not only is it overkill, but I find it hard to believe that this area can support that type of density. Overlooking the park is definitely attractive, but let’s be real. There are enough strong voices in this area with strong pocketbooks that would never allow something this tall. Remember the Willow Grande? Let’s stick to eight stories or less.
All in all I think Kevin Cogan is most likely the right guy to have on the case. This is one of the most important urban renovations on the table right now so hopefully it will be handled gracefully.
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