Right about the time when the first of the ice began to melt after last week’s snow, the traffic on our street began to crawl back to life. Many secondary streets were thick sheets of both white and black ice and a generous helping of salt from the Metro trucks that rolled out days before.
True, Edgeland Avenue looked like a half-finished margarita but that wasn’t stopping me from heading to Valu-Market for just one more milk ‘n’ bread run.
I chipped away at my trusty Dora, the Ford Explorer, and let the defrost do the rest. I was ready to roll. Slowly.
The two-story building, still under construction, loomed not only above but seemed to just sit right on the sidewalk. The Tyvek was all in place and bricks had finally begun to appear as the soon-to-be Highland Cleaners rose to life in the old triangular slab belonging to a ramshackle self-operated carwash. Or as we say in Louisville used-to-be speak on how to find Edgeland Avenue, “Where the car wash used to be.”
While the car wash was nothing less than homely it was cheap and always busy and I used it often. The historic brick alley shared by Edgeland and Barrigner residents was accessed off Bardstown as well as the west end of Edgeland.
But at least a motorist could see the full lanes of traffic in motion, enabling you to safely make your turns in either direction. Now there was this behemoth of a building, wrapped in plastic tarps flapping in the January winds and imprisoned by iron scaffolding.
From my left, I could not see, hear or smell traffic.
Actually, between Kizito and Impellizzeri, that is one of the most fragrant blocks of 31E with cookies and pepperoni hanging in the air. How would I get out? I thought while taking in a long whiff of chocolate and pepperoni. This ain’t right, no way no how.
I rolled down the window and turned down the radio. Okay, it was quiet. Stab it and steer, right? Whoah! No, there’s a truck coming. I stayed put, engine purring away for about a minute or so at this point. Then I saw the Kizito storefront window. Since it was a dreary day, most folks drove with their headlights on so I waited for the next light’s worth of traffic to move through. When I saw no more lights, I gunned it again and made it around the corner.
With the construction site now a big brown smudge in my rear view mirror, I motored west and wondered if I should consult with my Metro Councilman about this.
Let me drift for a moment, back to that aforementioned alley. You know, the one that used to have two access points before the new building? If this were TV, say “Gilligan’s Island,” the screen would start to spin….
Recently, many of those bricks were almost needlessly lost when my friend and I discovered an MSD crew digging trenches to repair a water main in my back yard. This was in the late summer and I wandered out into the wet heat to see what all the pounding and buzzing was about. I saw one of the crew tossing one century-old brick after another into a dump truck. The alley was peeled back to get to the pipes…which would be saved but the alley was forever damaged.
I asked the crew about the bricks. They assured me the alley would be repaired with new bricks as soon as possible. My lower lip must have pushed out way over my chin. They all stopped as if to say, “Wha….?” I explained that we needed to preserve our historic bricks. Right about then, a young perky guy said that once they’re in the dump truck, they can’t be retrieved. By law.
Oh, well then, of course.
That was probably the best time for the lead guy to indicate an unfortunate sink hole in our back yard and parking area. I was not impressed. I’d known about the weak soil for days but unlike the MSD crew it has not eaten up a hundred historic bricks in my alley.
I thought my precious bricks, traveled upon by Highlands residents before my grandparents’ time, stacked up against a wimpy sinkhole. So, I went inside and called Tom Owen.
Long story short? Owen and PVA Tony Lindauer, both Highlands neighbors, tag-teamed the alley project and made sure the bricks were either returned to their original resting place or that similar wide bricks were used to keep the alley looking its vintage best.
The next day, I returned to the alley and not only were the water mains flowing properly, the beautiful bricks were in place. And a few left for my garden rested near the offending sinkhole. Our garden looks quite nice with a few of them as a border. Have I mentioned yet that I love my neighborhood?
Okay, back to the future.
I contacted Owen, our District 8 advocate, and expressed my concern about a potential permanent blind spot at Edgeland and Bardstown Road. He is always a quick responder.
Trying to get the logistics straight, asking several distinct questions about direction and location, he seemed puzzled but was willing to look into it.
I wrote back:
Thanks for getting back to me on this. I pulled alongside the building this evening to really see where the walls will be when construction is finished. I just don’t know how anyone is going to be able to see westbound traffic in either lane before getting T-boned. Time and the completion of the walls will tell. Thanks again.
The next email was Councilman Owen explaining that since 1989, the review criteria for the Bardstown Road Overlay District supports a traditional neighborhood shopping corridor where buildings are built to the property line.
A service station was there before the car wash and before that a house that according to a 1928 Sanborn Fire Insurance map didn’t come absolutely to the sidewalk.
He signed off by letting me know that Traffic Engineering at Metro Works would go out and check the sight line for motorists coming off Edgeland–and thanks for raising the flag.
Just to make sure I didn’t expect Owen to do all the footwork, I left a message with the fine peeps at Metro Planning and Design. I went over the same details as expressed in the email transmission above and got a prompt call from Bob Seesaer @ Metro P&D. He was interested and very kind.
I wrote to Councilman Owen:
…we had a nice phone conversation. We both expressed concern for the blind spot and hope that once the scaffolding and all other materials, that there will be a clear view of oncoming traffic. He also reminded me of the state of the art “green” elements of this particular business and its building that was impressive. I had read about that before. Now, I just need to find something worthy of dry cleaning!
Soon enough, the sidewalk and lane were taped, coned and barricaded (as they were on several occasions through the winter), so the crew could bring down the plastic wrapping and scaffolding. And yes, it made a difference! I felt sheepish for having not waited a couple of days but I just had to inquire.
The day after that, the true future shape and position of the new Highland Cleaners building was revealed and offered more visibility. It’s still tight but not as bad as I feared.
So, was it worth getting spooked about the blockage of construction a few days ago to cry out to my Councilman? Sure. Clarity from a soapbox isn’t going to be the best view but it’s always there in case you need it. Also, good to know that we have access to community leaders, even if we’re not quite sure we are whining.
What I know about Highland Cleaners is that they are a successful local business and I want to support them. It’s kinda weird to see a dry-cleaning service, complete with drive-through, planted among the boutique and entertainment curves of the Highlands, but I figure with the shiny new Sherwin-Williams store where the Just Fresh Cafe used to be, we will embrace the industry mode businesses.
I have been told that it’s a very green biz and with state of the art design, including solar heat and cooling panels and high tech cleaning process, the community as well as the city should be proud. I am. There will also be a small business on the same property, not sure what will be offered but they’re making the most of that square footage that I can see.
On a road dotted with banks, bars and coffee houses, why not? Then again, I have to ponder the logic of a drive-through cleaners at that point in the rush hour flow. Who will turn left and then return to Bardstown Road again with their fresh suits and silk on a street with no light? I detect a parade on Edgeland but that’s okay. After all, our alley is paved with wonderful historic bricks! Let it ride.
I can just hear it now, on a Saturday evening: “Hey, dude! What’s happening tonight?”
“Not much…oh, I’ve got a delicate down comforter and a couple of suits to clean…wanna swing by Highland Cleaners?”