Editor’s Note: Last month (September 2009), The Highlander published a letter written by Shellie Nitsche regarding the proposed development of the historic property located at 2114/2116 Edgehill Road in the Highlands-Douglass neighborhood. William Van Cleave, a developer of the property, has submitted the following letter in response.
Walnut Hill: My Family’s Dream of Developing Our Property at 2114/2116 Edgehill Road
My grandparents rented the 200-year-old cottage at 2116 Edgehill Road in the 1950s and eventually purchased the entire 1.05 acres, made up of an 1860 Italianate mansion, the cottage and a carriage house. They lived there once their children were raised, and it remained my grandmother’s favorite place on earth up until her death in the summer of 2008.
Growing up, I traveled from my home on Alta Avenue to spend the night there at least once a week, learning to cook breakfast and play bridge at my grandmother’s knee. I searched for Easter eggs on the property, weeded hundreds of bricks (for next to no reimbursement!), played hide-and-seek, helped my grandmother maneuver into her narrow garage space, and eventually parked her car there myself. I still vividly remember the tornado when I was almost six, and walking with my parents the mile or so between my house and theirs to make sure my grandparents were okay.
Family friends often rented one of the three apartments in the 9,500-square-foot main house, and I spent time there too. It was a home away from home for me, and my grandparents were – and are – very dear to me. With their passing, I can say with a clear conscience that there isn’t a person living who cares about this place more than I do.
The Property AND The Project:
The house, carriage house and garage sit on just over an acre – a huge piece of land in a neighborhood celebrated for its density and the interaction of neighbors and neighborhoods which that density provides. It is ironic to me that recently it has been portrayed as one of the last undivided lots in the Highlands. Historically, the property has been divided multiple times – each and every house on Edgehill, Walnut and much of Lauderdale was once part of the Walnut Hill property. (Just for perspective, many of the house plats in the neighborhood are less than one-fifth of an acre; most condominium plats in the area are one-fourth of an acre – and these much smaller multifamily properties have more units than we propose.)
In the past 15 years, the property has deteriorated. While the cottage is in relatively good shape, the big house needs a new roof and shutters, new heating and air, electricity, plumbing, kitchens and baths. Repairs must be made to walls, ceilings and floors as well. In its heyday, even with three renters, the property never turned a profit, and recently, without even beginning the aforementioned repairs, the property has become a monthly financial drain.
I’m unlike most any developer you’ll ever meet. My mom plans to live in the cottage, a home she has known and loved all her adult life. I plan to own one of the condos in the main house. A discount on these purchases is the only profit the project will ever see. Our estimated cost: $2.5 million. Our goal: To respect the integrity of the property and the neighborhood while creating a financially feasible project where we can live.
We propose to cut a piece of land, 0.17 acres in size (similar in size to a number of plats in the neighborhood) from the acre in order to construct a house, in part to offset the considerable costs of restoring the remainder of the property. We also propose a separation of the cottage onto its own plat. These invisible property lines will free the cottage from condominium dues and separate it from the development project as a whole. For the remaining plat, 0.68 acres, we are asking for the minimum density for multifamily use – a move from R5 to R5a. This allows for 8.5 units, but our plans call for 7. This will be the least dense condominium project anywhere in the neighborhood, and even after the plat separation, the property will retain more green space per unit than any condominium property I have been able to locate in the Highlands.
A few points of clarity:
1. The extension we propose at the rear of the main house (11’6” deep) replaces a set of rotting porches (7’6” deep). This extension’s existence will allow us to preserve much of the existing floor plan, an important attribute to the preservation of this home.
2. The carriage house is not structurally sound. Portions of its courtyard wall have settled and cracked. We are preserving as much of this beautiful and quaint wall as possible and reinforcing it from the inside. To address significant neighborhood concerns about on-street parking, we are extending it – from 6.5 spaces to 9 – and adding uncovered spaces in the rear corner of the property. The seventh condominium we plan will be above the garage and almost entirely shielded from the street by the main house and the cottage’s roof.
3. The side yard between the main house and the neighbor’s house on Walnut Place will remain green, in part to protect their home. The only view they will have of the new development is if they look diagonally out their second story windows over the back half-acre of our property.
In conclusion, let me say this:
The property must be developed by someone. It is deteriorating rapidly and is an eyesore to the neighborhood. Our development project would not only restore a centerpiece to the neighborhood, but also increase property values there – a true win-win situation.
This isn’t about making a fortune – it’s about creating a financially feasible project and living on a property my family has grown to love. Eliminating the new house from the plan would put us in debt approximately $400,000. Eliminating the condominium above the garage would add an additional $225,000 to that debt. Obviously, this kind of debt isn’t sustainable, regardless of who develops the property.
We have addressed concerns about on-street parking, minimized the street view and impact of the additions, and planned for an attractive and appropriate house on the spare lot. We also asked the city to designate our property a local landmark to defend it against inappropriate development, now and in the future. Our project meets the city’s minimum density designation for multifamily use and also respects the historic integrity of the space.
As a full-time dyslexia consultant, I do not have the time to petition neighborhoods, call neighbors for support or attend public events asking for signatures. I spend what “free” time I have working on the project and meeting with neighbors who wish to discuss it. Though my mother would do anything to help me secure my dream, and though in her mind she has already moved to the cottage, I would never ask her to walk neighborhoods petitioning you, nor can I ask the neighbors who support us to spend their valuable time this way.
William Van Cleave
Residents Sign On with Enthusiastic Support for Petition Drives
In an effort to minimize the proposed development of the historic property located at Edgehill Road and Walnut Place in the Highlands-Douglass neighborhood, my husband and I, along with other concerned neighbors formed “preserve.conserve.protect.,” a neighborhood group established to protect the integrity of the property and limit development.
With support from the Highlands-Douglass Neighborhood Association and OPEN Louisville, Inc. (http://openlouisville.org/), we have petitioned over 200 signatures and raised $500 for an Individual Landmarks Designation application for the property. Last month, we added another 300 signatures to our list, changing the standard afternoon rezoning hearing time to an evening hearing time (scheduled for Thursday, October 29). In addition, we petitioned for a one-hour presentation opportunity to present our opposition at the hearing.
To date, however, our most important petition seeks to minimize the development proposal and to ensure that the property retains its original historic footprint. We have collected more than 300 signatures to support this endeavor, and each day, more people sign on to support our goal.
As stated in my previous letter in The Highlander (September 2009), the proposal seeks to divide the 1.05-acre property into three individual lots with a mixed use of single and multifamily residences. Initially, the project was to be managed by co-developers William Van Cleave, Lenora Paradis and her husband, Jordan Michelson. William Van Cleave announced in late August, however, that Lenora Paradis would not be continuing with the project “at this juncture” and that the elements of the proposal will not be affected by her departure. He stated that he would become the sole developer of the project with support from private backers and made no mention of co-developer Jordan Michelson.
While the proposal remains unchanged, the absence of Lenora Paradis makes me uncomfortable and even more uncertain for the future of this historic property. Her connection to this project brought years of real estate and development experience and without her involvement, I hesitate to think what could happen.
Although William Van Cleave appears to be a quick study, the scope of this project requires the skills of a seasoned professional with a solid background of successful developments – someone with a portfolio that demonstrates experience in historic renovation and the ability to bring a project to fruition. I’m not convinced he can deliver as sole developer.
This change in leadership, I feel, gives even further credibility to our effort to minimize the development proposal. Supporting the conversion of the manor house into six condominiums and the retention of the cottage as a single family residence, we feel, is a fair compromise. These two structures are enough for even the most advanced developer to tangle with, let alone a novice. We oppose adding the seventh condominium, new housing, and dividing the property into three lots. We believe adding these elements would alter the historic significance of the property and detract from the original neighborhood design of the Lauderdale subdivision and of the Highlands-Douglass neighborhood as a whole.
Though city officials may feel sacrificing green space for infill density is a small price to pay, we firmly believe that the land is as valuable as the structures. Our neighborhood plan, approved by Metro Council in March 2006, clearly states that new development and redevelopment needs to “respect the basic design elements that have shaped the neighborhood over the decades.” We feel this proposal fails to do so and other residents agree.
– Shellie Nitsche, 40205
I am a professional tattooer from a legitimate tattoo shop run by like-minded artists. This letter is to educate the general public on what to look out for as a consumer looking for a tattoo. The main reason it is so imperative right now is that there is a huge threat to our community – to its residents AND its tattooers.
You’ve probably heard something on the radio recently that sounds something like, “Why wait two years for a tattooing apprenticeship, when you can be certified at our tattoo school in just SIX WEEKS?!” Sounds great, right? I mean, tattooing is one of the best jobs you can have as an artist. While getting your name out there in the real world, people have your artwork on them for life.
Here is the problem. The establishment running these ads is promising the impossible. During the six-week course, you are actually only in class one day a week. In other words, what took me and other tattooers two years to learn, they are teaching in six days? Impossible. My main concern as a citizen is the spread of infectious diseases and viruses such as HIV and, more commonly, hepatitis. Without the proper training you get during an apprenticeship, you could be doing more harm than good. Until recently, the Louisville Metro Health Department was not aware of this six-week course.
One of the main things I want to stress is that tattooing is a trade and should only be performed by a professional. The only way you’re going to be tattooed by a professional in a sterile and professional environment is to go to a tattoo shop. We are required to meet certain standards to be open as a tattoo shop, and must be licensed by the Health Department, not only for the shop as a whole, but for the individual tattoo artist as well. To be licensed, you have to meet Health Department standards and be represented by another licensed tattooer. In addition, you also have to be working at a licensed shop to be a licensed tattooer.
In other words, ANYONE saying they’re a professional tattooer and only works out of their house is not professional at all. They are someone who decided that they do not need proper training or knowledge of blood borne pathogens to open up your skin. And that is the truth of it. As tattooers, we are exposing layers of skin and blood, while you’re trusting us to keep you safe. Not only is it unsafe to get tattooed by someone working out of a house, but the work that is done usually is not acceptable in the eyes of a professional. In short, you get what you pay for.
The following tips will keep you safe as well as happy with the tattoo you choose.
When you are out on the town looking to have some work done, take your time. Visit each shop. Look at portfolios. Talk to the tattooers. Check out the environment. Are you comfortable getting permanent artwork done at that particular location? Do you feel that the technicians there can properly execute the tattoo you’ve picked out? These things are important. This piece of art is on you for life. I can’t tell you how many cover-ups I’ve done because the tattoo under it is beyond repair. Don’t be one of these people. Take your time. There is no rush. We will take care of you the best we can, and if the tattoo is not something we can execute as a technician of our craft, then we are obligated to refer you to someone who can.
Like I said before, you get what you pay for. The professional at a shop will charge you more, but the tattoo will look its best, and most of all, we’ll keep you safe.
Please be safe, have fun picking your next tattoo, and thank you for taking the time to read my letter.
– Brian “Tx” Lejman, Ink and Dagger
My name is Carlos Chavarria, and I’m your new Highlands neighbor. I recently relocated from Northern California and am an Assistant Professor of Theatre and director of the Theatre Program at Bellarmine University.
Today, I write to invite you to our new theater season at Bellarmine. The university hasn’t had a strong theater program in a long time and, as new program director, my goal is to bring quality theater to both our student community and our city.
Last school year, the theater program presented its first season ever, and although it was a premier season, it was also an experiment to see if we could actually sustain ourselves as an educational theater entity. We met our goals and as a result will have our second season, titled “An Illuminating Season: Original, Engaging, Innovative.” This time around, we will present six different productions throughout the school year, and among them are three original works.
In October, we present “An Evening of One-Acts,” two works co-produced with our Student Theatre Drama Club known as STAGE. The plays, “The Mint Julep Trio” by Nick Zagone and “No Clue” by Carlos Manuel, will be performed October 1, 2, 3 and 4, 2009.
November brings an original work, “Novela,” by Carlos Manuel, a full-length play about a small theatre company whose personal problems mirror the ones in the show they are producing. This “play within a play,” directed by yours truly and filled with surprises, reversals, drama and comedy, takes place November 12-15 and 19-21, 2009.
“A Christmas Carol, The Radio Show,” directed by Carol Stewart, will be presented December 3, 4 and 5, 2009. The work is a result of a “radio drama” class, but instead of the students acting in the show, they create foley (sound effects) needed for the show. University students and community members will have the opportunity to be in the cast.
Our spring semester will open its theater doors in February to Laura Early’s direction of “Shining City,” by Conor McPherson, to be performed February 12-14 and 18-20, 2010. The play is set in Dublin, where a guilt-ridden man reaches out to a therapist after seeing the ghost of his recently deceased wife. The New York Times calls the play “haunting, inspired and absolutely glorious.”
An exciting event coming in March will be an evening of original 10-minute plays. The production will gather the best original short plays from everyone that submits to our play competition. A group of distinguished professors and community members will serve as members of the committee, choosing six to eight plays for the production of our “Anything Galileo” Festival, performed March 19-21, 2010.
Finally, on April 16-18, 2010, the Children’s Theatre class will present the east coast premier of “Henny Penny,” by Carlos Manuel. This play revisits the story of “the sky is falling,” giving us a better understanding of the classic tale and its characters.
Thank you for your time, and I hope to see at the theater.
– Carlos Chavarria, Assistant Professor of Theatre and director of the Theatre Program at Bellarmine University
Small Animals Beware!
Dave Powell sent us this photo of a peregrine falcon spotted on the next door neighbor’s deck by his wife, Angela, who was quick enough to grab a camera and photograph the seldom seen raptor.
The Powells live on Grasmere Drive in the Highlands-Douglass neighborhood and have seen the bird before. “I am still amazed that she just happened to spot this falcon from in the house and then went out and got a picture of it,” says Powell. “I have been joking that it was stalking our miniature pincher.”
Not to worry – the raptor feeds primarily on other birds, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Editor's Note: It was too late to update this in our print publication, but the bird that is pictured has now been properly identified as a cooper's hawk (not a peregrine falcon).