ONLY ON FOX: why it may cost taxpayers $130 million to save a piece of history - WDRB 41 Louisville News

ONLY ON FOX: why it may cost taxpayers $130 million to save a piece of history

Would you pay $130 million for a home?  Actually, you might have to.

In a story you'll see only on Fox, why so much time, effort and your money could be going to save one house.

The Drumanard Estate is arguably a beautiful home.  It also happens to fall right in the path of the route to the planned East End bridge.  Because it's historic, it's being saved.  A $260 million tunnel is being built to bypass the home.  A state transportation official says digging the tunnel could cost taxpayers as much as half that -- or $130 million.

Matt Bullock of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says, "If we didn't have a tunnel, we'd still have to go through.  We'd have a saving of the $260 million, maybe half or two-thirds, it's hard to say."

The 2000-foot long tunnel starts near Highway 42 and the Gene Snyder, and ends at Shadow Wood Lane.  38 homes will be acquired as part of the project.

But the Drumanard Estate will be left standing.  The tunnel will be about 80 feet below it.  This path to the east end bridge was chosen out of 16 options partly because it's the most direct route from the Gene Snyder to the river, with the least impact on the environment, historic properties, and other homes.

Bullock, when asked what he would say to taxpayers who are upset about the prospect of this costing so much, replied, that the "environmental impact statment was a long process with lots of public input -- hundreds of public meetings, thousands of people had input on this, and that was all factored in that record of decision."

Kentucky's historic preservation officer agrees and says historic value is considered before the cost to save a property is ever discussed.  Donna Neary explains, "Our job is to quantify what's historic and why is it valuable.  And this building is certainly historic and certainly has great significance to the story we tell about the history of our county."

Prominent local architects designed the Drumanard Estate, built in 1929.  The owners who now live in the home did not want to talk on camera, but tell Fox 41's Elizabeth Woolsey they feel blessed to have the property and use every square inch of it -- 42 acres total.

Neary says, "Drumanard is a wonderful example of another way of life -- time of life that's past in some ways.  We know it's still occupied, but to be out in the country and have a beautiful country estate...its really a showpiece."

Neary says the detail in the house with its massive chimneys and entrance, and the outbuildings show they were created at a time when lots of skilled tradesmen were on site.

The house itself isn't the only thing that makes the property historic.  The grounds have a connection to renowned landscape designer Frederick Law Olmstead.  A firm owned by his two sons designed the Drumanard Estate landscaping.  Olmstead is well-known for creating famous parks across the country, including New Yorks' Central Park and Cherokee Park here in Louisville.

Neary says, "Olmstead Associates, their idea if you look at Cherokee Park, was open landscapes -- very planned, but designed to look very relaxed and effortless.

The historian admits $130 million is a tough price tag to swallow to save the home -- but says it's sometimes impossible to quantify the cost of preserving our past while still moving forward:  "That is absolutely in the public's best interest to do things as frugally and cost-consciously as possible, but once an historic place is gone, it's gone, you'll never get it back."

It could be quite some time before you see any work on the tunnel.  An exploratory tunnel that was to be done before the final tunnel project has been put on hold because bids for it came in much higher than the projected cost.

The state is now looking into less expensive ways to get underground rock and water samples.

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