City Shoots Down 72-Unit Ludlow Yards Development
Of the Northern Kentucky riverfront cities of Covington, Newport, Bellevue, Dayton, and Ludlow, only one is without one or more major apartment projects underway.
After a unanimous vote by the city council, Ludlow will remain the sole river city without such a project, with public mood and the vote of council indicating that something better and worth waiting for could come down the road.
With only Mayor Ken Wynn, who only votes to break ties among the council, in support, the long-discussed Ludlow Yards project was unanimously voted down during a special meeting Monday night.
"We didn't give this a fair shake. It's unfortunate it happened this way," Wynn said after the meeting. "We should have gone through the process. I don't think we will attract another developer. Who will want to work with us down here?"
There had appeared to be at least some support for the project on council but after a second meeting at the city building in which the feedback was nearly all in opposition, with the only support tepid at best, members of council voiced why they voted against it.
"I came in here tonight thinking I knew how I was going to vote, in support of the agreement," said Councilman Jordan Scheid, "but I think we as council people have to put our opinion on a project aside when it's evident the community at large is against a project."
"This has been pushed forward quickly due to restrictions on financing," said Councilman Bill Whiteley. "Some of the financing they need is based on the size or density or non-market value of the apartments. I cannot honestly say I agree with the size or type of apartments that are going to be put in."
Philadelphia-based Pennrose was seeking approval of a needed developer agreement with the city in order to move forward with its plans for the $13 million, 72-unit, 3-story mixed-use project. While its much criticized modern design was negotiable, the company faced deadlines to pursue financing obligations, particularly as they relate to affordable housing tax credits.
Roughly 70 percent of the units would be reserved for tenants with income limitations.
The contemporary aesthetic, the 30-year term for the affordable housing requirements, and concerns about parking dominated the comments from opponents of the project.
At a meeting a week and a half ago, the project was met with a chilly reception from the public.
On Monday, Pennrose representatives did not speak before the vote was taken, though members of the public reiterated their distaste for Ludlow Yards as presented.
The panning of the project was echoed by members of council.
"My real concern is, do we need a 72-unit affordable housing project at the gateway to the city? And my answer to that is, no, we don't," said Councilman Tom Amann. "I don't think a 72-unit low-income housing project is going to attract people to Ludlow."
Amann also questioned why a traffic study had not been conducted for Elm Street since the proposed site is filled with cars during rush hour, suggesting that it would be difficult to make left turns from the new complex on to Elm Street at such times, also causing problems for pedestrians who would be parked in the municipal lot across the street.
Councilman Matt Williams said that his shop, Folk School Coffee Parlor, saw an influx of customers in recent days wanting to discuss the project, with nearly all in opposition. He cited the scope of the proposed project, parking issues, and limited engagement of city officials and the public as among the most frequently expressed concerns.
"I've not heard one person say they love the project," Williams said.
Councilman Josh Boone applauded the community for engaging on design issues. But a bigger issue, he said, would be the restricted units.
"The larger concern should be the restricted rent. The majority of the units are going to be restricted for thirty years," Boone said. "That would be my concern with it."