The Ark Park opens, the Foodport doesn’t and awful traffic: 7 LEO writers on what sucked this summer

The FoodPort fails
The West Louisville FoodPort might not have set West End imaginations on fire — political sycophants aside, the local population might have preferred something a little more practical — but that doesn’t make its failure any less depressing in the summer of suck.

The $35-million project, well into its third year of planning, collapsed almost overnight last month, to the shock of just about everyone including, apparently, Mayor Greg Fischer. Founder Stephen Reily’s gloomy announcement that its proposed main tenant and financial anchor, Chicago-based FarmedHere, had pulled the plug on its proposed $23-million vertical farm (arguably the last thing the West End actually needs) put the kibosh on the entire development: lock, stock, and organically-grown barrels.

But its suitability or otherwise for the West End isn’t really the point.

The point is that someone, anyone, was lining up a multi-million dollar investment in the West End. An investment that — if successful — would have created a few hundred good paying jobs (and the secondary economic growth that would have come with them) in one of our most economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods. The 24-acre site, big enough for any number of schemes if only other people had the balls and the money, is now likely to sit undeveloped, unloved, and unproductive, for an even longer period. Anyone wallowing in schadenfreude at the failure of Reily’s FoodPort has no idea about how desperately the West End needs investment — and how desperately depressing its failure is.—Andrew Dewson

The Ark Park opens
On the surface, the Ark Park, which opened in July, is absurd enough: Kentucky granted tax incentives that are worth up to $18 million to a gang of religious zealots that believe the earth is only 6,000 years old to build a “replica” of a dinosaur-housing ship that’s based on a parable at best. But, the park was well under construction by the time Governor Matt Bevin replaced four members of The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority Board in April, who, two weeks later, granted the incentives. So, you have a so-called fiscally conservative governor — who routinely criticizes the federal government for flexing its power too often — stacking the deck on a committee in order to throw millions at project, that is, logically if not legally, a violation of the separation between church and state. You know, something that was in the Constitution, probably Bevin’s third favorite piece of text behind Atlas Shrugged and The Book of Revelations. My point is, the money is bad, but the symbolism is worse: The Ark Park incentives is representative of the hypocritical nature of Bevin’s decision making. This put-yourself-on-a-pedestal showmanship, like some sort of scare-tactic warrior in the fight against the big, evil, intrusive rolling machine (that he frames the U.S. Government as), then turn around and throw around power like a drunken dictator, helping to spread his personal belief system on the dime of the people, is completely crazy. Not to mention, I’m generally against cities paying for portions of new sport’s arenas that are usually built in urban areas — something that from a certain perspective could be regarded as practical, but generally doesn’t provide a great return on investment for the taxpayer. So, how in the fuck is this going to work as a roadside attraction?—Scott Recker

Raw vegetables are a trend
So what sucked about this summer in Louisville dining? Crunchy, raw vegetables in dishes where a roast, a braise or a blast of gentle aromatic steam would have served them well. No need to name names. Go to just about any hip local eatery and you’ll see. Crunchy vegetables suck

A plate of crudités fails to excite me. Nasty little “baby carrots” and crunchy cauliflower and broccoli florets? Maybe I’ll nab a cherry tomato or two and a stringy celery stick to nab a little ranch dip, but … meh! Raw vegetables just aren’t my thing.

Now, I love veggies. Really, I do. As a graying boomer belatedly conscious of the importance of healthy eating, I’ll choose plant-based food over animal flesh most of the time, for the sake of my health and the planet’s health, too. Give me a creative, delicious vegetable dish like Brooklyn and the Butcher’s roasted cauliflower, bathed in tomato curry with shishito peppers, fried capers and Capriole goat cheese, or hand me a trio of crispy tomatillo, jerk plantain and barbecue tempeh tacos from Migo, and I’ll tuck my napkin in my shirt and turn to without a second thought.

But I want my veggies to be cooked, dammit! Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when my generation was rebelling against our moms’ habit of overcooking vegetables into mush, we rebelled by demanding that all the cool chefs serve our veggies “crisp-tender,” by which we meant, “if I can tell it from raw, it cooked too long.”

It didn’t take long for this trend to wear thin, and for a generation we’ve generally been able to count on good chefs to take vegetable dishes to the golden mean of Baby Bear’s porridge: “just right.”!

Until recently. — Robin Garr

Allergies are monstrous
I would say I’ve never seen allergies like this before … but I can’t see, my eyes are so watery. Normally the allergies in Louisville seem to be confined to spring and fall, and target only a certain type allergen. This year — the summer that sucked — was a different monster. This monster allergy summer was like a sneezing, snotting, snorting Godzilla that attacked everyone indiscriminately.

As a kid, I spent my time running around outside, climbing trees, etc., and I’ve always had pets around — dogs, cats and other critters — but never did I have an inkling of actual allergies. I’m 32 years old, and, only in the last few years have I started to have some spotty stretches of allergies. You would think, WebMD would be able to help.

Nope. In fact, it actually says: “‘That’s the thing about allergies … You’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine … until you’re not. Nobody knows why.”

I’m not a scientist, but I’m just hoping it’s not climate change. (It’s probably climate change … thanks, Obama.) But according to an “Inconvenient” Al Gore, the increase in temperatures will lead to more moisture in the air. Heat and moisture sound like pretty good growing conditions for weeds and plants. It also sounds like a lot of what Louisville has had this year: June through August has been the fifth wettest summer in Kentucky history according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and sixth warmest, while July was the hottest month ever for human Earth.

Anyway, the point is, I can’t see, I can’t sleep — all I can do is sneeze, snot and scratch … and complain. I just hope this isn’t forever, or getting worse. Like climate change. Thanks Obama. — Aaron Yarmuth

Traffic got worse
Louisville has been trying to prove it’s a “world class city” for years now, and in the hot summer months, I’ve had the swell opportunity to inspect its bona fides on that world classy-ist of achievements: horrible downtown traffic. From fire damage on Whiskey Row to the ongoing nightmare that is the Spaghetti Junction expansion, you can’t drive anywhere in downtown Louisville without it becoming an adrenaline-drenched, hate-venture more likely to summon images of “Mad Max” or “Death Race 2000” than a quaint drive in a picturesque downtown. Every time one construction hassle clears up — First Street is clear between Main and Market again — another street either closes or narrows to an anemic dribble. And don’t get me started on the idiocy surrounding the hell-mouth that is the Yum Center and the Second Street Bridge. This is all compounded by the fact that Metro Louisville and its many private partners are desperate to create the density of a Chicago, hence the metric shit-tons of construction, but we still have the public transit of a Paducah, with no reasonable expectation for it to improve anytime in the near future. Maybe 10 years down the road it will all be smooth sailing, and downtown with be in the flowering of an unheard of Golden Age. We’ll step onto an electric train in St. Matthews or J-Town and be whisked to a night of theater, music, food or sport in our thriving and well-organized Metropolis. But for now, it’s the worst.—Eli Keel

The Highlands continue to change
Since I was a teenager, The Highlands has been a haven for all the mutants and weirdos, the place you go to explore the stranger side of Louisville. At 15, I was in a car with girls (gasp), and we checked in at ear-X-tacy, then at the location near Eastern Parkway. One of the girls that I was with locked the car door and said that she was afraid of all the “grungers” as she phrased it, which brought a little joy to my heart. I didn’t know these punk rockers, but I knew my tribe when I saw it. Of course, ear-X-tacy is gone, replaced now with a Panera Bread. A scan of the neighborhood, and you’d think that there was some social virus or something manifested by an outbreak of vape shops, as if a bunch of bounty hunters from the future just rolled into town smoking their robot cigarettes that smell like Cap’n Crunch. Is this flavor country? I fucking hope not. Now, the neighborhood association seems to strike with a ninja-like efficiency to anything that may seem unsavory. About 15 years ago, a venue named the Brycc House, or Bardstown Road Youth Cultural Center, flew its freak flag high, providing a space for thoughtful workshops and progressive ideals, and the more-than-occasional punk show. But see, there were too many punk kids out, and that just didn’t fly. They got pushed out and replaced by a BW3s, so business as normal. Down the block is Cahoots. Cahoots is exactly as Obi-Wan describes Mos Eisley, a hive of scum and villainy. Am I sympathetic to their closing? Not really. But you’ve got to question why they were targeted last year, instead of one of the many other nearby bars with higher incidents of police involvement. Was it the fight on the sidewalk that went viral on Youtube, or the influx of POC to the bar? Who knows? What I do know is that now you can walk down the street to Hop Cat, a bar chain, or to Steel City Pops, a chain popsicle place. You can hit up the Mellow Mushroom, a chain pizza place. Walk far enough and you’ll hit the Urban Outfitters, where you can pay plenty to look edgy. This is The Highlands in 2016, increasingly cold and antiseptic. Councilman Brandon Coan has promised to: “Encourage enforcement of existing littering laws to equal parking enforcement efforts, and dedicate all littering fines paid to public education campaigns and other litter abatement activities,” so we’ll have to hold our breaths as to whether or not things like the Zombie Walk are slowly forced out of operation. So bust out your vape pen while we slowly slide into a homogenized tomorrow.—Syd Bishop

Teddy Bridgewater’s knee explodes
It’s rare when an athlete from UofL becomes a major player in the pros. So you can imagine the excitement when former Cardinal Teddy Bridgewater became the Minnesota Vikings’ starting quarterback. And then his knee seemingly exploded.

Why, gridiron gods!? Why?!

It may seem odd for so many Louisvillians to care about the starting quarterback for a team in Minnesota, with some even wearing his purple jersey to UofL games. But you have to understand something about UofL fans, and the city of Louisville, in general. We have a bit of a pro-sports fixation. For years, we’ve had to look longingly at neighboring cities, including Indianapolis, which have the Colts and Pacers, and Cincinnati, which has the Reds and Bengals and at Nashville, which has the Titans and Predators.

When the KFC Yum! Center was being built (ostensibly, for a college team), many had far-flung hopes that maybe, one day, if we’re lucky, an NBA team might move here and use the stadium. Now with the arrival of Louisville City FC, many are again thinking similar thoughts: If we build a big enough stadium, maybe, one day, if we’re lucky, the MLS will come. We’ve even had to watch as UK, our hated rival, produced all-star athletes like Anthony Davis who make a big splash in the pro-realm.

Expectations were high coming into the summer, but little did we know that this was the Summer of Suck, and before anything even got started Bridgewater would be in the hospital with a season (potentially career) ending injury. We can only hope that he has a full recovery and comes back stronger than ever. In the words of Bridgewater himself “I come from amazing DNA, I watched my mom fight and win against breast cancer. We will, as a team, attack my rehab with the same vigor and energy. My faith is strong, my faith is unwavering and my vision is clear. My purpose will not be denied.” —Ethan Smith