Visiting fellows from the Urban Land Institute have laid out plans for improving Louisville’s Fourth Street corridor and say the city should focus efforts first on the area they call SoBro — between downtown and Old Louisville.
There are four main sections to the corridor: downtown Louisville, SoBro (south of Broadway), Old Louisville and University of Louisville/Churchill Downs. Louisville’s challenge: How can Louisville create an identity for, improve connections between, and foster desired development along the diverse districts of the Fourth Street corridor?
Officials say the four mile Fourth Street Corridor stretch has many great assets like Old Louisville, Spaulding University and the Palace Theatre but there’s not much connectivity and identity of the corridor as a whole.
“We’re hoping this study will help catalyze some great ideas and help bring people together as well as say we’ve talked about it long enough, let’s see how we can have some great investments here to bring old Louisville together, bring SoBro together, connect to U of L, connect to Broadway and all the way through the river,” Mayor Greg Fischer said.
The ULI panel said starting with SoBro, or the area between Broadway and Old Louisville, should be a starting point for the city. Fellows said the area is undefined and a weak part of the corridor and is anchored between two well defined areas.
The fellows have spent the last week observing the corridor and walking its streets.
“There wasn’t that coherence of identity for how they all fit together. We also noticed, just in the physical terms, there are gaps in this urban fabric as we call it, or how the buildings and the surface parking lots are arranged along the corridor,” said Frank Fuller, panel co-chair with Field Paili Architects in San Francisco.
Fischer listened Friday to short and long-term options ULI proposed to develop the corridor. Ideas ranged from making the stretch more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, improving public transportation and branding the corridor to attract visitors.
Fellow Mark Shapiro from Seattle says there are quick and cheap fixes that could help define the corridor.
“Things like getting a periodic farmers market going. Get more arts related, a first Friday or whatever it might be, close the streets down once a month on a Sunday and invite people to occupy it with walking, rollerblading, biking.”
To pay for the projects, the fellows said the city should consider leveraging its parking assets, establish a public investment hierarchy for projects that should take precedent and harness public-private partnerships.
It was also suggested Fischer hire a full time team or project leader.
Here is the homework assigned to Louisville leaders, per the report:
1. Conduct inventory of vacant and city-owned property, starting in SoBro
2. Analyze legal framework and fiscal feasibility of various approaches to monetizing public parking assets
3. Reach consensus with leaders of institutions and large employers on corridor entity structure and goals
4. Engage TARC and Airport Authority on how to proceed with immediate enhancements and alternatives analysis for future transit improvements
The fellows will be back in Louisville later this year. The program is a year-long commitment to help the city develop this project.
Key Conclusions, per the report:
1. Create a corridor organization with financial commitments from partners in shared vision
2. Monetize public assets to increase fiscal capacity
3. Focus on SoBro as a priority
4. Take phased approach to transit improvements
5. Underpass improvements are crucial to success of corridor
6. Create a place-based vision with institutions and other stakeholders
7. Market identity of corridor to attract interest and change perceptions
After the announcement, Fischer took to Twitter and asked people for their thoughts on possible projects on Fourth Street.
For the past four years, ULI has chosen four cities annually to develop and answer challenges for improving the urban landscape.
“This is an implementation process. This is about not creating another plan, but creating a way to get things done,” said Carlton Brown, co-chair of the fellow panel.
Louisville was chosen last year to participate in the ULI program and the fellows involved presented their observations and options to Mayor Greg Fischer for developing the corridor between the Waterfront and Churchill Downs. Here’s a presentation on the Fourth Street corridor.