July 25, 2006

City Strobe

To wear or not to wear (the air, that is)CITY STROBE: Here’s an underside view: of one of three recommended designs for the downtown bridge (right). This one has a single A-shaped tower with diagonally shaped support cables. See all of the potential designs, for both the downtown and East End bridges, at www.kyinbridges.com. Photo cThere’s nothing funny about smelly air. To the contrary, bearing the brand of such air is much like Hawthorne’s “Scarlet Letter”: Enter at your own peril, and don’t be surprised if you can’t cope.You can’t bring more industry and young professionals if the ones who already live in your city are fouling the air. Take cars, the largest single contributor of ground-level ozone in the history of the universe: At least Louisville used to have a handle on this, with the late VET testing system. Since April 30, 2004, the city has been out of compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements for the amount of ozone present in the air during an eight-hour period. Called National Ambient Air Quality Standards, they were part of the 1990 Clean Air Act and exist to make sure citizens aren’t sucking more exhaust than they should be. Last month, the state’s Division for Air Quality sent a request for redesignation to the EPA, showing that Jefferson, Bullitt and Oldham counties are back in compliance.Then last week, on the very days that hearings were held on the redesignation, the Air Pollution Control District in Louisville issued Air Quality Alerts because there were dangerously high levels of ozone and/or particulate matter in the air. Five days in all — Sunday through Thursday — the air was thick, heavy and gross. One of those days, according to APCD spokesman Matt Stull, was out of compliance with the NAAQS. Besides beautiful irony, this sequence reveals a certain problem in regard to the state’s efforts at redesignation: The weather’s got something to do with it. “I would argue — and some people here would argue — that a lot of days we’re at the mercy of the weather,” Stull said. “The nice thing about these redesignation requests is that we’re able to use the good weather to our benefit. At least one of the years we used in this redesignation was a mild summer.”Of course, APCD and Metro Government have also tried to encourage citizens to drive less, learn more about the quality of their air, ride the bus and promote more sustainable ways of living. But sometimes the wind just turns for you. —Stephen GeorgeArena plan: Let the race for profits begin!We were just shocked — shocked! — to learn that E.ON U.S. has found yet another way to profit from the decision to build a downtown arena at its site between the Ohio River and Main Street.Late last week, only a couple of weeks after old Water Company site advocates David Jones and John Schnatter had ended their informational campaign in frustration, E.ON U.S. announced that it had sold its 23-story office tower, just across Main from the arena site, to Harbor Group International for what figures to be a right tidy profit.The sale price was announced at $43 million, roughly $14 million more than the price for which the tower was appraised in 1998. This is the same corporation, mind you, that will get $14 million from the state for the proposed arena property and $63 million more simply for moving its transmitters and power equipment 60 yards across Second Street.The selection of the E.ON U.S. site for the arena didn’t exactly diminish the attractiveness of the E.ON U.S. tower to Harbor Group International, which holds an investment portfolio in excess of $1.5 billion. The corporation, which maintains offices in Norfolk, Va., New York, Tel Aviv, Chicago and Dallas, owns more than 5.8 million square feet of office space and more than 10,000 apartment units throughout the United States.In addition, it also owns some hotel properties, but so far hasn’t indicated publicly that it will be involved in the proposed new hotel adjacent to the arena. Arena czar Jim Host says the hotel is necessary to make the arena’s revenue streams work.It’s also unknown if either E.ON U.S., which has a lease on 13 floors in its former tower through 2015, or Harbor Group International plans to bid for naming rights to the new arena. HGI also owns the Park Laureate apartment complex in eastern Jefferson County. —Billy ReedConduit attitudeTransportation officials entered their 260th week of gamely saying the words “bridge” and “paint” with a straight face, as the latest effort to find a painter for the ever-rusting Kennedy Bridge came in almost $6 million higher than state estimates. Kentucky has been trying to get the bridge painted since Adolph Rupp was on the sideline, only to be thwarted by crooked contractors, persnickety rust and general incompetence, leaving the bridge unpainted and the state $23 million in the hole.In last week’s misadventure, only Michigan’s Atsalis Bros. Painting placed a bid on the job — and is probably chewing its paint-covered nails in fear that Kentucky will actually accept the offer, something the state promises to decide soon.And just because we can’t manage to paint one bridge is no reason to think we can’t build two new ones, right? Officials unveiled the final six designs for two new bridges, which you can view at www.kyinbridges.com. —Jim WelpIf you have interesting information, we may write about it. Find us here, people: citystrobe@leoweekly.com