Downtown Louisville lags behind similar cities in the number of housing units added since 2000.
If it wants to catch up, the cost to rent or buy downtown housing space must decrease.
Louisville could realistically add 2,500 residential units to downtown in the next 10 years—but the thinking has changed on who’s the most interested buyer, according to a draft study released this week by the Downtown Development Corp.
A quick, rough profile: About half of downtown residents are younger than 35, the study said. Largely, downtown residents are less likely to have children. These days, they’re more likely to want to rent than own a condo.
So, the draft study says, the city should focus on apartments in the $1.20-$1.40 square-foot range (that’s $960-$1,120 monthly rent for an 800-square foot apartment) and condos in the $190,00-$240,000 price range.
In the past decade, studies showed that higher-end condos were the best bet. Currently, downtown Louisville has about 4,200 residents and a 10 percent vacancy rate, said said Clark Welch, an economic development project manager for the Downtown Development Corp.
The recession hurt that decade-ago effort, Welch said.
But, also, the demographics for demand have shifted.
People like Caitlin Williams may be the type they’ll be looking for.
Williams, 20, is a University of Louisville student. She’s also a downtown resident, living for more than a year at the Mercantile Gallery Lofts.
“It’s a really nice building itself, but you can walk out the door and take a little stroll down the block, either left and right and start hitting restaurants, like Garage Bar and all that. Things I like to do,” she said.
At the moment, Williams gets help paying for her place from her parents. But she said she’d like to stay downtown once she’s on her own.
“Everything around Market Street is just kind of booming right now,” she said. “I thought, I’m going to have a lot in walking distance.”
Well, not everything. Williams said she’d like to see more retail—and a grocery store closer by.
Retail has been an on-going project for downtown, and a downtown grocery is something officials are looking at, Welch said.
The draft study on downtown residents was assembled for an update to the downtown master plan.
Empty-nesters and mid-career professionals are also among the people living in downtown Louisville—but people young in age and early in their careers seems to be the biggest segment, the draft study said.
The city has options for helping developers offer more downtown housing, including a $6.8 million revolving loan program, Welch said. Some of that money is already promised to current projects, he notes.
The draft study looked specifically at the Central Business District—essentially, north of Broadway, east of Ninth Street and west of Interstate 65.
Adding residences downtown would make Louisville more attractive to employers, Welch said.