The owners of 1240 E. Broadway have asked for a permit to demolish the more than 120-year-old building as part of a plan to develop a Thorntons gas station and convenience store at the corner of Baxter Avenue and Broadway.
However, residents and community leaders have signed a petition asking the city to designate the building a local landmark.
Attorney Steve Porter filed the petition on March 17 on behalf of the Original Highlands Neighborhood Association, Louisville Historical League, Cherokee Triangle Association, OPEN Louisville and Neighborhood Planning and Preservation.
“The demolition of this building would be a disastrous blow to the historic, aesthetic, architectural, visual and cultural heritage of the Original Highlands Neighborhood,” the petition reads.
It notes that the Original Highlands is one of the earliest suburban developments, dating back to the 1800s, and that 1240 E. Broadway specifically features a mix of Victorian Eclectic and Colonial Revival architecture. The petition argues that the house is in good structural condition and, given the historic nature of the area, should be saved.
Kennie Combs, who owns the house and the former gas station property next door, begged to differ.
“I don’t think they realized now bad a shape that house is in,” he told Insider Louisville, estimating that it would cost $300,000 to $400,000 to renovate. “I don’t know what the big dust-up is about tearing it down other than the age.”
In addition to the house, plans call for the demolition of the Smith Imported Car Service building (the company is moving into a smaller building on the same property) and the former gas station building at the corner of Broadway and Baxter Avenue. Combs will lease the property to Louisville-based gas station company Thorntons.
“They are going to put a palace in there,” Combs said. “They are going to do it unlike any other Thorntons you’ve ever seen.”
IL requested renderings, design details and a general update on the project from Thorntons. The company sent an emailed comment saying Thorntons is working with local architects on a design that would fit the surrounding neighborhood.
“As we prepare our plans to open a store in the Original Highlands neighborhood at Baxter Avenue and East Broadway in Louisville, it has always been a top priority of ours to ensure that we proceed in a way that is in the best interest of the community and the people who call it home,” Rodney Loyd, chief development officer at Thorntons, said in an emailed statement. “Thorntons has and will continue to work collaboratively with Louisville Metro Government, surrounding Neighborhood Associations, the Bardstown Road Overlay District, Local Councilmen, and nearby homeowners as plans for the new store develop in an effort to reach a mutually agreeable design.”
Although Combs and his wife have only owned the house at 1240 E. Broadway for two years, they have owned the property next door for 20 years and at one time ran a gas station and convenience store there. The gas station will serve the existing residents, as well as the residents of Highland Flats, a 260-unit apartment building going up across the street, Combs said, adding that he wouldn’t lease the property for any use that he didn’t feel worked in the neighborhood.
“They are going above and beyond” with the design, he said.
Matt Blair, a member of the Original Highlands Neighborhood Association, said the renderings he’s seen don’t fit the neighborhood and include features such as a two-story canopy over the gas pumps.
“They are trying to be grand and huge and bright and flashy,” he said, “and that’s not who we are.”
Members of the association also have concerns about the safety of having a new gas station open and don’t believe it’s the best use for the site. The corner spot doesn’t allow vehicles to come in and out safely, said Blair, who expressed concerns about car accidents or pedestrian-involved crashes.
“It’s all catawampus,” he said. “It’s not a safe intersection.”
Blair added that other gas stations have operated on the property in the past and questioned why the Thorntons would succeed where others didn’t.