Tuesday, February 8, 2011

675. Whiskey Row/Iron Quarter - Curtis Morrison and I exchange thoughts on Facebook

Curtis Morrison:

If Mayor Greg Fischer continues to take cues from President Mubarak in the undemocratic disposition of Whiskey Row, all you loyal Fischer supporters will likely be activated to storm an upcoming rally of preservationists on the backs of camels, armed with those little Louisville Slugger bats they've confiscated at the airport. This all could have been prevented.

I have an opinion but it has nothing to do with the relatively recent ownership by Mr. Blue. Most of these buildings have been more or less empty since I was in my teens or 20s, which is to say for a hell of a long time. And the ones which were open back then - I can remember several - weren't in the best of shape even then. I recall a collapsing stairwell in one building in particular back in 1986. And the one on the far eastern end collapsed of its own accord a decade ago. Admittedly, those toward the west have done well.

I'm not happy about any compromise on the facade issue, of that I'll admit. But when the plans came out in 2007 for all the highrises set back away from the streets, I thought it was a great idea. My friend Michael Garton and I discussed this last night while waiting for Gil Reyes' play, Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead, to start at the Kentucky Center. We disagreed.

I wish there was to be more residential space, and particularly more affordable residential space in this project, or any project in the area. We have next to none of that. There's something worth fighting for.

But, comparing this mayor's one month and five days in office with the thirty year reign of President Mubarak is quite hyperbolic and frankly, silly. I expect better from you and your followers.

Deep in my heart, I'm a preservationist too. I remember my freshman year at college (or maybe I was a senior at Durrett) fighting the demolition of the old Will Sales Building, where the B&W Tower now stands at 4th and Liberty streets. I remembering touring with then-Alderman Allan Steinberg the old Savoy Theater on Jefferson Street and the Milner Hotel in the same block, hoping their facades could be worked into plans for the new convention center. We lost those battles and those buildings.

But using similar tactics, others succesfully incorporated the facade of the Compton or Clinton (or whatever it is - I know it starts with a C) Building into the new multi-storied Marriott at 3rd and Jefferson streets, providing construction jobs in the short run and hotel jobs for decades to follow.

Let's use a little logic here. We need to preserve the facades - the only real parts worth preserving. Work toward that end - I will join you. But we also need jobs. Here is an opportunity. Make your arguments using sensible language and reasonable ideas, not Slugger Battette wielding renegades on camelback. Don't expect anyone with any authority to help you in your crusade to take such comments with any degree of seriousness.

1 comment:

Curtis Morrison said...

Jeff- I do agree that we need "more residential space, and particularly more affordable residential space." Ironically, I once commended Candidate Fischer, albeit in tweet, for making that same observation himself over a year ago. If there's anything Todd Blue has no experience in, it's developing affordable housing. His strengths and accomplishments, which do exist, will be championed another day, but one of them is DEFINITELY NOT developing affordable housing.

I do, however, very much appreciate you acknowledging my comparison, and have decided to give it a test run for all to see.

Thursday morning me, and I know my dog Boomer, and maybe a preservationist or even two (All are welcome) will have a little rally in front of Whiskey Row starting from 7:30-9 AM. We'll see how Mayor Fischer handles his response. I fully expect we'll be ignored by him, as is his custom. But if I'm trampled by camels, I told you so.

One last thing, I have a solution to this mess: Blue overpaid for these buildings when he bought them for $3.7 million in 2007. I propose the city borrow that figure from the water company and offer it up to Blue in cash to buy the buildings. If he says now, then we use imminent domain to purchase the property for a much lower figure in line with comparable sold properties IN THIS MARKET, and the city can re-develop the property ourselves to expand our publicly-owned convention and meeting space.

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.