LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – I’ve got to ask here tonight, why on earth were preservationists involved in the property for the failed Walmart store?
There’s nothing there to preserve. It is a HUGE empty lot. It was a cigarette factory. There is no facade to save!
Let’s face it, this was an easy deal, teed up, ready to be hit out of the ballpark, and it is gone.
Frank and Theresa Bridgewater, the owners of the property at 18th and Broadway say they spent $2 million of their own money to clear the site. They had the deal with Walmart going, on their own 3 years ago. They now say their problems began when the city got involved.
Add to that, a group of preservationists, who were insisting that the Walmart be built to the curbside to follow the Broadway development code.
Walmart has a plan for its stores, and building to the curb isn’t one of them.
I went over to St. Matthews where they built a “neighborhood” market in an old Circuit City. I found in St. Matthews, this Walmart has a huge parking lot out front to the curb, with the store tucked in the back.
Here’s where Louisville messed up. We let this thing drag on for 3 years. The Bridgewaters brought Walmart to the table. During those 3 years of lawsuits over the design, and no ability to compromise, Walmart changed its national business strategy. In, January it announced it was closing hundreds of stores and going heavy into online ordering, not building new stores.
So when they checked back on the Louisville Broadway deal, they saw nothing but hassles. Easy decision – kill it.
Preservationists have an important role, like saving key parts our history that are threatened. But here, they ended up saving weeds and concrete.
Council members are mad at the mayor’s office. They should be. The Omni deal was fast-tracked to the point preservationists never knew what hit them. You can make an argument that the Omni should have incorporated the water company building façade. But this was a top priority for City Hall and that building was ripped out fast. No one was going to threaten the Omni deal. City Hall was the protector.
18th and Broadway was allowed to spin and spin. The saddest point to this is lost: private entrepreneurs, the Bridgewaters, bought a closed factory and saw the vision for the property, just like private businesses should. Once again, government and the lawsuit complicated matters.
Who’s left holding the bag? The people who spent their own cash, found the tenant, and took all of the risk.
I always appreciate what you think. You can reach me on twitter @whas11doug , facebook/doug proffitt, and direct email: firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s the Proffitt Report.