Louisville planning staff takes issue with Kindred's new downtow - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville planning staff takes issue with Kindred's new downtown building

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Rendering of the new Kindred building and public square Rendering of the new Kindred building and public square
A rendering shows the new building, right, to complement Kindred's current headquarters building, left A rendering shows the new building, right, to complement Kindred's current headquarters building, left
Public square in front of new Kindred building Public square in front of new Kindred building
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  In December, Kindred Healthcare announced it would add 500 jobs at headquarters and construct a six-story office building on S. 4th Street at Theater Square in downtown Louisville.

Mayor Greg Fischer called it “a dream come true from a city standpoint.”

But not in one respect. According to Louisville Metro's planning staff, Kindred's placement of the new building – set back about 80 feet from S. 4th Street behind a public square – amounts to “a suburban design … being proposed in an urban environment.”

Kindred's plan conflicts with a critical element of urban design -- that buildings are close to property lines and the sidewalk, creating a “continuous street wall,” according to the city's urban design experts.

Since the plan also involves demolishing two Theater Square buildings that are currently up to the street – the ones that house BBC Brewing Co. and Yafa Café – it would result in a loss of almost 90 feet of “existing street wall” along S. 4th Street.

The urban design staff's findings are detailed in a report prepared for the Downtown Development Review Overlay Committee, which will consider the Kindred plan at its March 11 meeting.

Allowing Kindred to move forward without changes would set a bad precedent, according to the report by Bob Keesaer, Louisville Metro's urban design administrator and Burcum Keeton, the city's architectural projects coordinator.

“(I)f an exception is made in this case…precedence is being set and will encourage future developments to not meet the Land Development Code, giving further opportunities to deteriorate the urban environment,” the report says.

Doug Curnutte, the Kindred official overseeing the project, did not return a call and email. Kindred spokeswoman Susan Moss said the company would have no comment until the overlay committee meeting on Wednesday.

Fischer's spokesman Chris Poynter declined to comment, calling it a "planning and design issue."

As announced in December, Kindred's plan involves demolishing the three retail buildings that surround the city-owned Barney Bright Clock in the current public space at Theater Square. The clock will be moved to accommodate the project.

The report notes that the city's planning staff “appreciates the economic investment” Kindred is looking to make in downtown – about $36 million.

Staffers recommended the Downtown Development Review Overlay committee require Kindred to make a handful of changes before approving the plan, including retaining one of the current Theater Square buildings and incorporating it into the project or “construction of a new structure…to recapture lost massing along the S. 4th Street wall.”

The report suggests that planning stafferd have let Kindred know their concerns about the building. On Monday, city employees including Jim Mims, director of Develop Louisville and Emily Liu, director of Planning and Design Services, met with Kindred's architect Bob Hafferman to “discuss the project as proposed.”

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