Jefferson Community And Technical College has made an offer to Wayside Christian Mission that would allow the homeless shelter to continue operations at the Hotel Louisville for five years, then turn the property over to the college.
Both sides confirmed to WHAS11 News that negotiations continue, with another meeting planned for next week. Wayside bid $10 million for the property at auction in May. The college did not bid after the Kentucky General Assembly failed to authorize the purchase of the property, which is in JCTC's master plan.
Wayside began moving women and children into the hotel last week, charging them one cent per night, to technically continue operations of the building as a hotel because the proprerty is not zoned to be a shelter.
"Wayside needs a place to go, that's the bottom line. And the college needs a place to expand," explained JCTC spokeswoman Lisa Brosky. "So, if we could find a way to purchase the property, let Wayside use it for a little while until they could find a better situation for themselves, then both parties would benefit, and the community would benefit."
Brosky says JCTC would lease the hotel to Wayside for $1 per year.
"Well, there's a lot of if's and's that go with that offer," Wayside's Nina Moseley said, "And we would really have to look at that. The board would have to look at it. The problem is, where are we going to go, even in five years? Where are we going to go? And that's our guiding factor here. Right now, we have a place, the women and families are in there. They're secure. It's a wonderful location for them. But if you look around Louisville, it's hard for us to relocate anyplace."
A Metro planning commission task force meets next week to begin to determine what kind of zoning a homeless shelter even needs. Zoning is what got in the way of Wayside's original plan to buy the old Mercy Academy campus on East
Broadway, where neighbors have fought what they call a "mega-shelter."
While Wayside has not given up its legal fight over the zoning of the Mercy property, it is moving forward with Hotel Louisville as its new long term home.
Wayside is facing an August 1 deadline to move out of its longtime home on East Market, after agreeing to a
$5 million buyout by developers transforming East Market into a trendier area. Some former Wayside buildings have already been transformed into retail businesses.
Despite the payout for the property, Wayside has not been able to buy acceptance in any other neighborhood, though Moseley says no one besides JCTC has complained about the hotel shelter.
Asked if JCTC would allow Wayside more than five years in the hotel offer, Moseley would not rule out moving from the property.
"It's possible," Moseley said, "Things come available everyday. We have looked at everything that's on the market now. There's nothing that's on the market now that would suit our needs as far as location, and then the space that we need. The hotel property is 167,000 sqare feet. It's going to be hard to top that. It's going to be hard to even match that someplace."
Meanwhile, State Senator Tim Shaugnessy says Wayside may not have a choice. The Louisville Democrat says Wayside bought the hotel knowing full well that it was in JCTC's master plan. He says the state can use the power of eminent domain to force Wayside to sell it.
"At the end of the day, the state will take that property," Shaughnessy said.
JCTC disagrees with Shaughnessy's strategy.
"All colleges and universities in the state have the power of eminent domain," Brosky said, "But, that's not our interest, that's not our goal, that's not where we're headed."
Yet, Brosky did acknowledge Shaugnessy's criticism that JCTC has not made the public aware of its expansion plans downtown. A master plan approved in 2008 included the Hotel Louisville property.
"Maybe people aren't clear that this college is very aggressive about growing," Brosky said, "We're a very dominant force in the downtown area. And we want to continue to be."
JCTC says it has grown 33% in the last 9 years, and with a new nursing and allied health building now open, the college needs to be able to expand.
"Our campus master plan calls for multiple new buildings and a parking structure," Brosky continued, "We have no place to put that right now, except on our current parking lot."
Meanwhile, Moseley says Wayside Christian Mission has not only rented "one cent" rooms to homeless women, but that people have also paid the full $125 room rate to stay there. Wayside plans on renting conference rooms to groups and to open a coffee shop where the former hotel operated a bar.