Cunningham Restaurant Group signs letter of intent for Azalea property in East Louisville


Azalea restaurant, formerly Bauer’s 1870 Tavern. (Photo by Broken Sidewalk)

Indianapolis-based Cunningham Restaurant Group has signed a letter of intent to develop a restaurant on the much-coveted – and sorely neglected – site of the original Bauer’s 1870 Tavern at 3608 Brownsboro Road.

Led by Mike Cunningham, CRG has five high-end casual concepts and 10 total restaurants scattered throughout Indiana and Ohio. (Click here to see a list of concepts.)

Cunningham confirmed his company is “taking steps to do something there, but I’d hate to get the ball rolling talking about it when these deals sometimes blow up. They just don’t always work out.”

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Paul Grisanti, owner of Grisanti Group, the Louisville-based commercial real estate firm that is brokering the deal, confirmed CRG’s involvement, but gave few details other than those supplied in public documents filed today.

“This is an extremely exciting project that will go a long way to benefiting the neighborhood,” said Grisanti. “In the process, this will remove what has become an eyesore everyone’s tired of looking at. I don’t think that there’s any anybody who isn’t going to like it.”

Commonly known as “the Azalea property,” referring to the last restaurant that occupied the spot until 2007, the building has fallen into significant disrepair.

For a good look at the building’s decayed exterior, here’s a review done by WHAS 84 radio personality Terry Meiners:

When a national chain drugstore sought to develop the property several years ago, it met with public opposition from neighborhood groups, including residents of Mockingbird Gardens, a high-end community which sits behind the property.

“That’s why I think having a restaurant here will please everyone,” Grisanti said. “I think the opposition in the past was a use issue. Neighbors didn’t want that kind of a business.”

As proposed in the development plan, the Bauer’s building will be demolished and a planned, but never built Rite-Aid building will be abandoned in order to make room for a new 7,500 square-foot restaurant and a new 5,300 square-foot medical office.

According to a letter of explanation provided to the Louisville Metro Planning & Design Services, the developers find “it impossible to reutilize the existing cellar or any of the existing structural elements of the seriously dilapidated old restaurant building.”

In between both buildings will be a 2,700 square-foot patio, and behind them is a 108-space parking lot which will benefit from recently improved road access.

Despite the progress on the property, Grisanti warned that the deal isn’t completely done until local authorities, including the Architectural Review Committee of the Landmarks Commission, sign off on the plan.

“There are negotiations still going on, and I have to say we’re not totally there yet,” said Grisanti, adding that about 15 serious business operators toured the facility.

In 2010, owners of 211 Clover Lane announced plans to open a restaurant there dubbed Monterey, but the deal never materialized.

“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel on this, so we’re hopeful it can be completed,” Grisanti said.

(Editor’s note: Last August, Insider Louisville staffer Doug Stern posted an explanationof how the Landmarks Commission has ruled on the Bauer Building. In May 2010, the commission’s architectural review committee green-lighted demolition of the newer additions in the back and a total re-skinning of the entire exterior as part of the development of a proposed restaurant. The commission also approved construction of a 14,000-square-foot Rite Aid Pharmacy behind it.)