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by Graham Shelby

The mayors of Louisville and Lexington spoke together in Frankfort on Wednesday and called for Kentucky’s leaders in business and government to think big and think creatively about the future of the Commonwealth.

(via CN2)

Addressing the Local Government Committee of the Kentucky House, Fisher followed up on his State of the City speech and said he takes inspiration from North Carolina’s Research Triangle of Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh.

“Regional partnerships are important. We’re living in a world right now that’s rapidly urbanizing….when we look out twenty years from now…unless Louisville, Lexington, E-town – our geographic cluster is seen as a three or four million (person) population cluster, investments from Washington D.C., international investments will not be as quick to come to our state,” he said.

Fisher said the region already has significant number of businesses in industries like aging care, logistics and automotive manufacturing among others.

Gray said he agreed with Fisher on the principles that should guide Kentucky in the 21st century. “Innovation and imagination and invention – focusing on job creation….We need all the help we can get.”

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After false starts and abandoned deals, the old Colgate Plant in Clarksville, Indiana has been sold. Specifically, it’s been sold the to the Boston Development Group. We reported last month that Clarksville officials were anticipating BDG to purchase the property.

After confirming he’s been told the nearly 60-acre complex has been sold to a group led by Jayesh Sheth, a geriatric specialist who lives in New Albany, town Council Member Bob Popp said, “I hope their expectations from the town aren’t too high.”

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“The sale is the easy part,” Popp said, explaining that estimates of a $4.5 million purchase price may sound like a great deal of money, but redevelopment of the nearly-60 acre site, with nearly 1 million square feet of buildings, some of them very old, may take hundreds of millions of dollars over many years.

Katherine Johnson, chief operating office of Midwest Center for Foreign Investment, in which Sheth is a partner, confirmed the Colgate property has been purchased by Boston Development Group LLC, of which Sheth is a managing partner. She said the Midwest Center obtained financing for the project.

NPR reported yesterday on the growing interest in light rail.

It’s hard to find a city in America that isn’t planning, proposing, studying or actually building a light rail system. Cities as diverse as Dallas, Seattle and Washington, D.C., all see light rail as part of their future — a way to reshape their development.

“There are very few major metropolitan areas in the country that aren’t considering the installation of some sort of light rail system,” says Robert Puentes, a transportation expert at the Brookings Institution. He stresses that the car is still king, but says politicians, businessmen and developers are looking to light rail to help guide development.

“Light rail stops create nodes and create opportunities for denser development,” says Frampton. “So you don’t end up using up roads and using up sewers, and building new police stations and water lines and so on.”

Tom Clark, of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, says that when the conversations first began about mass transit, “it sounded a little bit too close to socialism for some of us.” What changed the business community’s mind, he says, were simple economics.

Various politicians and candidates have discussed light rail in Louisville, but others have dismissed it. The story points out that more cities are now turning to better transit in part to be more competitive for new jobs and residents. In DC, the trains are being expanded to serve unserved areas now, where access to cars is limited.

Next year, detail data from the 2010 will filter out to the states. This will be used to redrawn city, state and federal legislative districts. While a dramatic change is unlikely in Kentucky, it could tip the scales toward the cities, Louisville and Lexington. If the cities represent more of the state’s population, they’ll get more representation, and it’s long been said that Americans are becoming more urban, and cities could gain more power on the state and federal level.

But as Governing reports, that could come at the cost of rural clout.

The Washington Post says Louisville’s downtown is “shabby,” except for earmark-funded improvements and projects.

The paper spends a few paragraphs on Louisville in a story about what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s recent decision to oppose earmarks (at least for now) means for the cities, governments and people who benefit from earmarks.

But the downtown of Kentucky’s largest city also has a spectacular redeveloped waterfront featuring bike paths and open vistas, the spanking-new KFC Yum Center sports arena, and a medical complex of several hospitals that employ nearly 20,000 people, treat tens of thousands and conduct cutting-edge research.

This resurgence is a result of civic vision, pride, tenacity – and the impressive earmark performance of Louisville’s Slugger: Mitch McConnell (R), Kentucky’s longest-serving senator and the powerful Senateminority leader.

He has driven $62.4 million in federal funding to this city in the past three years, the largest chunk by locale of the $458 million that he earmarked from 2008 through 2010, according to data tallied by the Center for Responsive Politics.

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The messy, massive business of appropriations and bailouts during a prolonged recession has deepened public distrust, claimed political scalps and hardened the partisan divide. Rhetoric against Washington runs hot.

But here on the ground, where federal money has helped a river city of 722,000 become more vibrant and livable, people live with their contradictory feelings about government and its challenges, and their own senior senator.

“Earmarks are not just good,” Schneider says, “and they are not just bad. It’s more complicated than that.”

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Given all that, David Weilage is aggravated and confused by McConnell’s switch.

“It always concerns me when they start talking about cutting off the money,” says Weilage, 53, who is waiting for a bus at the edge of the medical district, which covers about 20 city blocks. He is a semi-retired Vietnam War veteran who “kind of leans on the federal government myself” and considers the construction and new sports-and-entertainment arena “good for the city, good for the state.”

(h/t LEO)

The Mid City Mall in the Highlands will be the subject of the inaugural event in the Brief Urban Design Area Studies series from Broken Sidewalk/Urban Design Studio. The series is meant to get people thinking about how urban spaces could be redeveloped and put to better use. Here are more details:

The event takes place in two stages.  First, from 9:30AM through 11AM, Broken Sidewalk and the Urban Design Studio will lead a guided tour of the Mid City Mall area to scope out the current conditions of one of Louisville’s most high-profile properties.  We’ll be taking a look at the history of the site, the growth of Bardstown Road, and how the site interacts with the surrounding neighborhood.  Meet at Heine Bros. Coffee across the street from the Mid City Mall at 1295 Bardstown Road.

Next, from Noon until 4:30PM, the really important stuff gets started – imagining the potential of the Mid City Mall area.  We’ll be heading Downtown to the Urban Design Studio at 507 South Third Streetwhere we can check out giant maps of the area and start sketching our ideas.  We’ll provide the supplies, pens, markers, trace paper, and more.  We’ll have some light snacks to keep the creative juices flowing as well.

When we have created the perfect reimagination of the Mid City Mall site, the Urban Design Studio and Broken Sidewalk will compile the results and publish a report on the UDS and Broken Sidewalk web sites.

A list of absentee landlords will be published in the Courier-Journal soon. It could be published this week.

The publication is one step a group of Metro Council members is taking to crack down on abandoned properties, which do no favors to the community.

The list is available online (horizontal PDF), and only property owners who owe more than $12,000 in fines to the city will be published in the paper.

Aside from individuals, the list includes banks, LLCs and at least one nonprofit. I’ve been looking through the list hoping to talk with some of these property owners. As I worked my way down, after reaching disconnected lines and leaving messages with secretaries and answering machines, I found Go Invest Wisely. This Utah-based company has made the news in other cities (St. Louis, Cleveland) and the news isn’t very good.

From the Plain Dealer:

In many ways Go Invest Wisely LLC is emblematic of what the region faces as it contends with companies trading in distressed properties.

Since 2008, the Utah company has taken title to roughly 185 properties in Cuyahoga County — most for less than $2,000, according to county records. It has unloaded about 170 properties — including at least 60 Cleveland properties sold to out-of-state businesses after Cleveland Housing Court Judge Raymond Pianka put the company on probation last year, according to records. The sales did not violate the specific terms of the probation order.

The company has paid $9,000 in Housing Court fines and still owes about $1.2 million in cases that stem from code violations and the company’s repeated failure to complete a required seller disclosure form that concerns property conditions, according to records. The company has appealed nearly every ruling.

The company is currently refunding money to its clients, though the details are murky.

I’ve contacted Go Invest Wisely, but haven’t yet heard back.

I’ll post any more interesting bits from the list as I work my way through it.

While last week’s heat seems to have broken, it’s still hot. As we reported last week, this July could be one of the five hottest on record.

What does this mean for city residents? Broken Sidewalk asks just that, after noting that New York City ice cream vendors have found the streets nearly empty during times of extreme heat.

Broken Sidewalk also links to this Filson blog post of pictures of Kentuckians in past summers.

Louisville isn’t the only city facing tolls. And Louisville’s anti-toll activists may not be the most active out there. CN2 has a rundown of which other cities where tolls are being discussed.

But opposition to the Ohio River Bridges Project isn’t just about tolls…there’s the downtown interstate (and larger interchange) side as well. What are other cities doing about urban interstates? Well, New Orleans could be getting rid of one.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said last week that he’s open to consider a proposal to remove a two-mile elevated stretch of I-10 from the city. I-10 is accused of (in Robert Moses-style) splitting a minority neighborhood.

Construction in the 1960s of the elevated interstate, particularly the stretch that towers over North Claiborne Avenue, has been blamed for cleaving a wide swath of once-thriving residential and commercial communities and forcing scores of businesses owned by African-American entrepreneurs to shut down.

Amid looming maintenance expenses and a new national focus on urban renewal, experts have suggested removing the Claiborne Expressway from the Pontchartrain Expressway to Elysian Fields Avenue. Traffic would be diverted on surface streets or along Interstate 610.

The proposal is part of New Orleans’ new master plan, a dense document designed to spell out planning priorities for the next two decades. The City Council is expected to consider the final version next month.

The elevated stretch of I-10 “gave people more impetus to bypass the city than to stay in it,” Landrieu said. Tearing it down, he said, could attract new residents and businesses, a goal most mayors try to achieve by building new infrastructure.


The Gray Street Farmers’ Market–which is operated by the Louisville Metro Department of Health and Wellness–will now accept debit and food stamps cards. Stephanie Crosby reported on the development, and had this quote from department director Dr. Adewale Troutman:

“To be able to swipe your card, if you are on food stamps, and being able to shop here at the farmers market is a real positive for everybody,” says Troutman. “It’s a positive for the farmers market, it’s positive for the residents, who sometimes can’t find a grocery store close by to get fresh produce, so it’s a good addition to increasing access to fresh produce.”

The announcement follows the release of the State of Food report, which noted a lack of fresh food in west Louisville and along Broadway. As farmers’ markets grow, the discussion of accessibility increases. For example, the 2009 documentary Food Inc. ended with a call for farmers’ markets to accept payment methods other than cash.

What do you think? Does your farmers’ market accept debit cards or food stamps? Is there a demand for such payment methods in your neighborhood?

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