I left work through the side door, into the alley. I do this all the time. But something was different. The wall of the Clay Commons parking garage, which had been covered in vines, was bare. Remnants of the cut vines were on the ground of the alley between the garage and the Louisville Public Media, on South Fourth Street. It seemed like an odd landscaping choice for PARC, which runs the garage.
But it wasn’t a choice.
Someone tore down the green wall without permission.
The green wall is expensive. Mayor Greg Fischer’s office estimates about $30,000 went to building the appropriate wall and nurturing the plants for a year or so until they were healthy enough to live on rain water and alley sunlight. The wall on the Clay Commons garage was cut at the roots and ripped off. Unconnected tendrils remain higher on the wall, cut off from roots and too high to rip off without a ladder.
Walls like this are meant to retain water in cement-heavy city blocks (the kind of blocks taken up by parking garages and radio stations). Otherwise, the water would go into the sewer, possibly causing a flood. The extra greenery may also help reduce the heat island effect common in cities that lack heavy tree cover in the urban core.
And they look pretty. (Prettier than a cement wall, at least.)
Whoever cut down the green wall dumped the purloined plants in Louisville Public Media’s dumpster. With the evidence in our hands, the city came calling. They asked if we knew what happened to the shrubbery (Virginia Creeper for those of you following at home). We didn’t have anything to do with it.
The city has a surveillance photo of the perpetrator. It looks like a man and he looks like a pro.
City Properties has a project on this block, too. But operations manager Lee Weyland says there’s no way a City Properties landscaper did this.
“We make it pretty clear to them not to touch those,” he says. “We put so much time and money into them. Our guys are pretty clear on what to touch and what not to touch.”
“Those vines weren’t cheap,” he adds.
The mayor has taken to Twitter to find the culprit.
Poynter says the city hasn’t decided whether to replant the walls, since they’re costly and time-consuming.