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Landmarks Commission says Louisville Collegiate School can demolish apartments, put in parking lot

Louisville Collegiate School's three Yorktown Apartments buildings.
Jacob Munoz
Louisville's Landmarks Commission allowed the Louisville Collegiate School to tear down its three Yorktown Apartments buildings during a Thursday appeals meeting.

Commission members voted 6-2 to overturn a preservation committee’s March ruling against Collegiate. The school can now move forward with a controversial plan to tear down three vacant apartment buildings it owns for a parking lot.

Collegiate officials asked for city approval last year to demolish the Yorktown Apartments that are located next to its Cherokee Triangle campus.

The approval is needed because the neighborhood is a Historic Preservation District.

The city’s Cherokee Triangle Architectural Review Committee previously voted 3-2 against razing the apartments, ruling the buildings had historical significance.

But in a public meeting Thursday, the Historic Landmarks and Preservation Districts Commission overruled the committee in a 6-2 decision, arguing it erred in its judgment.

The preservation commission agreed with a staff report that found the buildings’ demolition “will not adversely affect the District’s distinctive characteristics or importance as a developed neighborhood.”

Commission chair Morgan Ward voted to overturn the committee’s ruling.

“I did not see factual findings that compel a conclusion that these are contributing structures,” Ward said.

Most public speakers at Thursday’s meeting opposed overturning the March decision, with some arguing that the buildings qualified as significant, and others saying the meeting was poorly communicated to residents.

Collegiate previously rented out 48 housing units at the Yorktown Apartments, where rooms averaged $650 for rent, according to its former property manager. School officials ordered tenants out of the apartments in the spring and provided them with some financial and relocation assistance.

The city needs more than 31,000 affordable housing units for the city’s lowest income households, according to a 2019 assessmentby the Louisville Metro Office of Housing and Community Development.

Catherine McGeeney is the communications director of the Coalition for the Homeless. She spoke against the demolition at the meeting on Thursday, and said there needed to be a way for the city to review cases where low-cost housing is removed.

She provided a statement through text on behalf of the group after the meeting.

“When our city allows the destruction of low-cost housing, we are choosing to perpetuate homelessness and housing instability rather than work toward a more affordable, livable city,” she wrote.

The commission’s decision can be appealed to the Jefferson Circuit Court within 30 days.

Collegiate’s plan sparked controversy from the beginning. Many residents who oppose the demolition have said they’re against the removal of low-income housing units in the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood.

A Collegiate application to the city said the buildings, which the prestigious private school has owned since 2015, are in a state of disrepair and that the parking lot will reduce road congestion.

The school extended thanks to the city in an emailed statement from spokesperson Elizabeth Post.

“Thank you to the Metro Louisville Planning and Design Staff for their dedicated work and guidance during this multi-year process,” the school wrote.

Post said the school did not have a timeline for the demolition.

This story has been updated to clarify Collegiate's response to the commission's decision.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.

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