Louisville Magazine

AUG 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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Page 68 of 148

50 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.14 area beyond the foodwall into a park after a successful archaeological project with the University of Louisville. "Mayor (Dave) Armstrong came to us, and we got to work in earnest," Andrews says. "We were part of the team. A really good park-designing company made a master plan. We did engineering studies to see how much it would cost to make an entrance through the foodwall. Tere were hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe a million." Tings went awry in 2003, when the old City of Louisville merged with Jeferson County, forming Louisville Metro. "Ten we got Metro, and we lost the parks director," Andrews says. "Tere was a lot of turmoil. Everything stopped, and when it started again, there just wasn't any backing. We didn't have Armstrong; we had Abramson, and he just didn't have the same feel- ing about it. If you don't have the guy at the top, it just fades away." We talk about ways to solve Port- land's many problems. Andrews says that homeownership makes a big dif- ference. People outside Kentucky own 9 percent of single-family homes in Portland, the same percentage that are vacant and more than triple the num- ber of such homes in all of Louisville. "Slumlords are the real problem," one Portlander told me. "Personally, I think we need a stronger middle class," Andrews says. "Tere's a lot of larger housing here that requires a certain income level. Instead of turning into Section 8 housing, those could be family homes. Too much Section 8 housing is a problem, because it's sub- sidized. Landlords get more because it's subsidized, and young people who want to stay here can't fnd suitable housing. What Gill is doing is good. He has a vision, and he's putting money into that vision. I hope it goes well for us because, in a lot of ways, we are gasping." She gets up from her desk and rummages through some documents. "About the park: Tis is from 1919. 'Old Portland wharf to be made city playground . . . soon.' Maybe it'll happen in fve years, a century later." She laughs. H erb Brodarick steps out of his storage building shirtless, dripping with sweat. "Hello, Herby," Owen calls. Brodarick extends a hand past his big bare belly and gives mine a frm shake. "It's full of junk in there," he says, looking around for seats. We fnd a couple of wet lawn chairs that Brodarick dries with a shirt. Owen sparks his cigarette. I never see him with a pack, just a single smoke, like he's always working on the same one. Brodarick has lived in Portland for 27 years — "26 and three-quarters too many," he says. His wife, a Portland native, wanted to move back home when he took a job as the food and beverage director at a Louisville hotel. "I make too much money to live in the f--king slums," he told her. But Portlanders come back. "Te ironic part is, 27 years later, we're divorced and I'm the one who lives in Portland," he says. Owen laughs. Once Portland reminded Brodarick of the Chicago neighborhoods of his youth. "It used to be like that: Te people on your block knew the kids everywhere. Your neighbors corrected your kids like they were their own. It was one big family," he says. Brodarick ran a restaurant called the Toll Bridge Inn on Northwestern Parkway for 25 years. "I closed up last year," he says. Te three of us commiserate, sweating in the heat. "Herby was one of the founding members of Portland Now," Owen says. "I'm not really aligned with them at all now," Brodarick says. "I don't like the direction they went." What direc- tion is that? "Chicken shit. You probably can't print that, huh? Tey don't go after stuf like we used to." I push him further. "When we frst put the group together (in 2001), there were founders with permanent seats. Tere were checks and balances. Tey wanted to eliminate that." Owen perks up. "It went from a functional group to a clique," he says. "It's not that they're not trying; they just don't know how to use their muscle," Brodarick says. Portland Now won a grant to award forgivable home- repair loans to residents. Te organization also won a $250,000 grant to "support local business" and document- ed the historic structures of the old Wharf neighborhood. Tese accomplishments are easy to fnd. Talk to a member and she'll give you a list: Portland Possibilities: 21st Century Solutions for a Historic Neighborhood. It reminds me of Owen's card: 21st Century Ideas To Spread Te Wealth. It seems that every ofcial in Portland is worried about being stuck in the past. I look at the cracked sidewalk, listen to the spare conversation of the three old men sitting on the porch next door, and wonder why. Every Portlander tells me the same things. Teir neighbors were family. Teir houses were full of people. Tey didn't have money, but they had tables. Tey grew peach trees or apple trees so the children wouldn't go hungry. Tey were poor, but they didn't know it. Teir grandparents refused to leave for care facilities; they withered and died at home. People left after the food, people left for big houses in the suburbs, people left for the city that casts a shadow on the small-town streets at dusk. People left, but they stayed. Tey don't trust new development. Tey yearn for new development. Tey hope it will change things. Tey've seen it fail before. But the thing they say most, the thing they want me to under- stand, the thing that makes them walk up to me on the street or lean over to me in the bar or look up at me from behind the cash-register is this: Portlanders stay. Owen's voice brings me back to reality. "Herb, you were a restaurateur for years. What do you think of all this development, and the Hillbilly Tea?" he says. "Good and bad," Brodarick says. "Te work that's go- ing on is fne. But the part that I see, it's all talk. You talk about construction and rebuilding and remodeling — it's nothing." "Are you out here smoking with John?" someone says. We look up at Martina Kunnecke, the president of Portland Neighborhood Planning and Preservation. ("President, not director," she says. "It is not a paid posi- tion.") Kunnecke, who has a warm voice and shoulder- length hair, politely refuses Brodarick's ofer for a seat. He continues. "About Hillbilly Tea: If they don't have a chain name on them, the few people with the money to go to them won't," he says. "New places are going to need a lot of backup money to live. Most of my customers weren't even from Portland. Tey were frefghters, city workers. Tere's nothing wrong with their product, but where are their customers going to come from?" Owen nods. "What Gill (Holland) is doing is good. He has a vision, and he's putting money into that vision. I hope it goes well for us because, in a lot of ways, we are gasping," says Nathalie Andrews.

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