Urban Government Center site redesign plan slowed by neighborhood ‘benefits’ pact | In depth

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The planned redevelopment of the former Urban Government Center site has missed a series of goals and deadlines, putting the project months behind schedule set by the Metro Government and its chosen developer.

By the end of the summer, Paristown Preservation Trust was supposed to have ticked off city approvals for its redesign of the 10-acre land at Barret Avenue and E. Breckinridge Street and preparing to get Metro Council clearance for a change. zoning.

This does not happen. Steve Smith, managing member of the Paristown group, said work was slowed after city officials asked his group to hold an additional neighborhood meeting on the development plan, which caused a delay of about a month and a half.

But the main sticking point is a ‘community benefits agreement’ required when the Metro government chose the trust last year to turn public land in a largely residential area into a mix of homes and spaces commercial.

The Paristown trust must sign the agreement with representatives from the neighboring neighborhood before Metro sells its properties at 810 and 850 Barret, and 1235 Breckinridge, for $1.

Smith said his team plans to work in the coming weeks with the neighborhood advisory committee to finalize the deal. The city-created committee includes members from Paristown Pointe, Original Highlands, Germantown-Paristown, Smoketown and Phoenix Hill.

“We’re all concerned about the same things, aren’t we,” Smith said in an interview last week. “So we’re all concerned about parking, we’re all concerned about keeping the neighborhood clean, making sure people come and go safely.”

He insisted that “we’re not that far apart” and cited some examples of common ground: a dog park and neighborhood signage, plus new traffic studies and parking lots that should be completed this fall.

But the two sides traded vastly different versions of the benefits agreement, according to drafts reviewed by WDRB News.

Meanwhile, Shannon Musselman, president of the Paristown Pointe Neighborhood Association, recently accused Smith’s group of being “unwilling, uncooperative, disrespectful. I’m going to say publicly that they’ve been absolutely uncooperative. It’s ridiculous .”

An initial offer from the development group included no money to address potential gentrification pressures in the area, said Randall Webber, a Smoketown resident who sits on the advisory board negotiating the deal.

“We thought that was outrageous. So we responded in an equally outrageous way,” Webber said. “This is only the first sound of saber.”

This response asked the Paristown Development Group to contribute $50,000 annually to a neighborhood “gentrification reduction fund” for the next 30 years. Or, instead of giving $1.5 million over this period, the developer could provide a one-time payment of $1 million.

He argued that the estimated price ranges for new homes “will increase property values ​​and taxes enough to exclude many current residents of the neighborhood and thereby exacerbate gentrification and housing instability.”

And he said the new development, which offers up to 450 apartments and an undetermined number of condos, “will attract an influx of new residents without pre-existing ties to the Paristown Pointe neighborhood or awareness of its culture and history,” while its density “exacerbates existing traffic problems.”

Among other things, their proposal wants Paristown Preservation Trust to install lights, better sidewalks, curbs with cuts and crosswalks on Vine and Breckinridge streets, as well as support to convert some streets to two-way traffic. . He is also looking for development regulations that limit the number of short-term rentals in the area.

A version proposed by the development group in late August agreed to new sidewalks and streetlights, to conduct traffic and parking studies and to work with the Parking Authority of River City and Metro Council to improve parking in nearby neighborhoods during events at Paristown Hall, which Smith’s group also developed.

Eric Baldwin, a resident of Paristown Pointe and member of the advisory board, describes this proposal as “almost a non-answer”.

“We’re a bit frustrated right now with their ability to come back with something substantial,” he said.

Baldwin acknowledged that asking for $50,000 a year to address gentrification issues was to make a larger point. “The idea behind it was that we wanted to make sure the developer is thinking in terms of displaced people and how some people are going to be left out of the neighborhood,” he said.

The development team’s recent proposal calls for a one-time payment of $10,000 to the Paristown Pointe Neighborhood Association, which could spend it on neighborhood amenities as they see fit. Baldwin said he thinks a “more realistic solution” is a recurring annual payment.

He said the elements of the neighborhood groups’ request are based on what residents say they want to help offset increased traffic and other changes to the new development at the site, which has been vacant for years, and two related projects nearby.

The Paristown Preservation Trust plans to tear down nearly all of the existing buildings on the site, including the former Kentucky Baptist Hospital building. It would retain an old steam factory and chimney, turning them into retail and other uses.

Site plans also call for a 110-room hotel/condo with an adjacent parking garage at Vine and Lampton streets; a 150,000 square foot office building on Barret Avenue; two apartment complexes, each with its own parking lot; and approximately 1.3 acres of open space.

Smith estimated the cost of the project and an associated plan to build 20 single-family “cottage” homes on land owned by the Paristown Trust on Vine Street, at around $167 million.

The proposal is the third development plan presented since Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration announced in 2016 that it would seek ideas from private entities for the land, which once housed city offices, a police station and a public housing office.

The first two did not advance. The Marian Group pulled out of the deal in late 2019 after claiming Metro’s government failed to help with land use and other approvals it agreed to obtain. In August 2021, city officials ended talks with Underhill Associates after claiming the two sides could not reach an agreement.

The Metro Board is expected to ultimately approve the Paristown Group’s zoning change from office, residential and commercial uses to a planned development category, which allows for flexible design standards.

The council must also authorize a local tax increase funding, or TIF, grant for the project. The TIF neighborhood would allow the developer to receive a portion of the property tax revenue generated there for public infrastructure costs.

Along with the city-owned property, the Louisville Metro Housing Authority would also sell its former building at 768 Barret Avenue for development. Housing authority spokeswoman Jelisa Chatman said the council approved the sale of the property in March but had not yet received a response from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Developers have until Dec. 31 to secure government approvals, though that deadline could be extended, according to city documents.

The Louisville Forward economic development agency is acting as a “negotiator” between Smith’s Paristown group and neighborhood representatives, spokeswoman Caitlin Bowling said.

“Louisville Forward staff are working with the developer and the advisory group to ensure that the agreement and the overall development positively serve the neighborhood and the city as a whole,” she said.

For his part, Smith said he hopes a deal can be reached soon.

“I won’t get everything I want. They won’t get everything they want,” he said. “But I think there is a respectful place where we are going.”

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