Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait for Monday.
This week, a local publicly traded company booms without explanation as another tries to leave behind a rough 2014, despite some revolutionary advancements. A move is in store for your morning coffee and a new option arrives just in time for dessert. A law firm shakeup is raising new questions about a merger. And the owner of a notorious hovel puts up a giant wall to keep people out, while the city looks to tear one down to bring more people in.
City will ask for federal funds to tear down ‘Ninth Street Divide’
For what seems like time immemorial, elected officials and those campaigning to be have thundered on about eliminating the Ninth Street Divide, the figurative and literal barrier that separates downtown from west Louisville via a gaudy, monolithic on-ramp to Interstate 64. It’s been the subject of speeches and community forums, white papers and sermons, an awful and constant reminder of how racially divided our city is.
That might finally change.
Metro government will apply later this year for federal grant funding to create a plan to tear down the I-64 on-ramp at Ninth Street and redesign the remaining roadway to be more hospitable to pedestrians, according to a grant proposal shared with Insider Louisville. The major infrastructure project would require local, state and federal buy-in at a time when funding for such projects is becoming more limited.
According to the proposal, the first phase of the project would “explore the feasibility of redesign or relocation of the Ninth Street/Roy Wilkins Boulevard interchange of I-64,” including a broader look at reconnecting the street grid in west Louisville and incorporating an extended River Road and the fourth and final phase of Waterfront Park.
Louisville Forward, the city’s development arm, is responsible for the proposal. Patti Clare, deputy director of advanced planning at LF, says federal funding would help implement the early stages of a bigger plan to remake the Ninth Street corridor from I-64 to Hill Street, connecting west Louisville neighborhoods such as California, Russell and Portland to the University of Louisville and Spalding University in SoBro, central and east downtown, and the waterfront to the north. The concept is also part of the Vision Louisville initiative.
City officials also are seeking to make it easier to cross Ninth Street — now significantly wider than most of the north-south connectors that run through and around downtown — with new designs that create “a multi-modal transportation corridor designed for bicycles, pedestrians, transit, vehicles and recreation.” More than 37 percent of residents in west Louisville walk, ride bicycles or use public transit to get to work.
The decades-long choking off of access to downtown’s commerce and development has kept west Louisville, a 17-square-mile area that is home to more than 60,000 residents, poorer and less developed than the rest of the city. The median income there is $13,367; for the rest of the city, it’s more than $44,000. Major capital investment is hard to spot; however, private and public efforts are underway to change that.
The federal TIGER grant program is extremely competitive: In 2013, applicants requested $9 billion from a $600 million pot. Louisville Forward presented a similar proposal last year but did not receive funding.
The Economy Inn has built the most honest development in the city
The owners of the Economy Inn on Bardstown Road in Buechel were having a problem with the neighbors. More accurately, they were causing a problem for their neighbors. So they built a fence to create some distance. A 12-foot-tall, 239-foot-long wooden privacy fence that runs along the back of the property and separates the motel just a little more from the residential neighborhood behind it.
But the fence is 4-feet taller than Metro regulations allow, so the owners were dinged with a violation. And in a couple weeks, they’ll have to come before the Metro Board of Zoning Adjustment to justify the great wall.
Last week, they filed their justification in writing, and it’s kind of a doozy. In a section that asks applicants to “explain how the variance arises from special circumstances, which do not generally apply to land in the general vicinity,” Economy Inn owner Kelly Kado wrote:
Hotel is multi-story dwelling and fence hides only a portion which is being obstructed by fence height. Tennants have thrown needles and trash into yards which is reason for fence height to prevent harm to neighbors. [sic]
He also mentions “security” concerns and constant littering, and he acknowledges his tenants have been disruptive to the neighbors. In an interview, Kado told IL he hired a contractor to build the fence “to protect the neighbors and protect our property.” But he claimed crime isn’t a problem there, and when asked about the needles appearing in the yards of adjacent residences, he said it’s only happened once.
It’s well known that the Economy Inn is a haven for shady — and often criminal — activity. In the past week alone, police made 21 arrests within a mile of the motel, the vast majority of them for drug offenses. Neighbors have also accused the motel of inviting prostitution, as in this 2013 WAVE-3 Flack Attack, which makes ample reference to the “hooker hotel.”
Will a fence solve the problems this hovel is causing for its neighbors? If you think so, we’ve got some wood we’d like to sell you. But our hats are off for the totally honest representation. You do you, Economy Inn.