Progress vs. preservation turns into an ugly ordeal

Published: Nov. 8, 2012 at 8:28 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 23, 2012 at 8:29 PM EST
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The Peter Doerhoefer house at 44th and Broadway.
The Peter Doerhoefer house at 44th and Broadway.
Michael Reed
Michael Reed
Tony McDaniel
Tony McDaniel
Councilman David Yates (D-District 25)
Councilman David Yates (D-District 25)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – It can be aggravating and confusing, but there is a lot on the line every time the Landmarks Commission meets. What is a historic Louisville landmark? We got the list, went out, and recorded every one of them - more than 80.

Forty of them have been landmarked just since 2000. Some are strong and stately. Some are dilapidated eyesores. Some landmarks can't even be viewed by the public. Most of them can, but that's the problem in some cases.

"It's a beautiful part of downtown when you come down here, this is what you see. This is kind of a sore thumb here," said Michael Reed.

Christ Temple Apostolic Church at 44th and Broadway started tearing down a falling down house on its property to build a sanctuary, when they say they were stopped in their tracks with a petition and a landmarks designation for the Peter Doerhoefer house.

"We can't do anything," said Reed, a deacon at Christ Temple Apostolic Church. "I've had to spend money to put a fence around it because we're trying to keep homeless people out of it because it's unsafe."

"The Doerhoefer mansion is by far the number one project that we were a part of that was 100 percent driven by the neighborhood," said Marianne Zickuhr, director of Preservation Louisville.

But fewer than half of the petition's signatures came from the two zip code areas in that part of town. The church resents people in other parts of town telling them what to do with their property.

"A lot of times people get landmarks, and what it means to be a preservation district, confused with just basic property maintenance," said Zickuhr, who believes the church should pay the money to restore the property.

On Bardstown Road, the Twig and Leaf, a restaurant near the intersection with Douglass Boulevard, has legendary hash browns. But is it a historic landmark? Neighbors said Twig and Leaf was landmarked just to keep a drug store chain from locating there.

Zickuhr disagrees.

"Roadside diner architecture," said Zickuhr. "That's part of the mid-century modern movement, which is what Twig and Leaf is classified as."

At the entrance to one of Louisville's wealthiest neighborhoods, the old Azalea's restaurant sits crumbling with neighbors grumbling about the decision to make it a landmark. The owner said he's handcuffed and no one will buy it because potential buyers can't afford to meet the landmark criteria.

"It's just sort of sad the building sits here empty and nothing has been done with it," said Tony McDaniel as he stared at Colonial Gardens.

Three years ago, Colonial Gardens, the site of Louisville's first zoo, almost became a restaurant.

"But it was landmarked and they killed those plans," said Metro Council member David Yates (D-District 25), who lives near Colonial Gardens. "I think that what you've addressed is we have a problem."

Yates drew up an ordinance that requires at least half of the landmarks petition signatures come from within one mile of the structure. It also gives the Metro Council final say over the Landmarks Commission.

"They couldn't consider the overall greater good of the community," Yates said. "They couldn't consider the neighborhood around them. They couldn't consider whether that property would sit dilapidated and fall down for decades to come."

"I just continue to be confused as to why some of our leaders would fabricate issues where there are none," responded Zickuhr.

Copyright 2012 WAVE News. All rights reserved.