In Conversation

If you’ve ever looked at historical photos of downtown Louisville, you might have been struck by how busy and bustling it looked. Loads of people were out and about going to work, wearing fancy outfits to the theater, and shopping at department stores. But mid-century “urban renewal” efforts changed downtown, putting parking lots and high rises where multi-use buildings and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks used to be.

Broken Sidewalk
Broken Sidewalk

These photos show the view looking south from the Glassworks building at 9th St and Market, before and after urban renewal. They’re from the Broken Sidewalk blog, which has a great (but depressing) collection of before and after pictures.

Since then, efforts to revitalize downtown have come and gone (remember the Galleria?), but in the last few years, our city center seemed to gain some momentum. The Yum Center brought people downtown for games and concerts, Whiskey Row reopened with restaurants and shops, and some distilleries opened their doors to teach tourists where the good stuff comes from.

Enter 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic shuttered downtown, closing courts and government offices, and sending workers from their high rise cubicles to their dining room tables. Then protests drew opportunistic vandals who broke storefront windows. Buildings are still boarded up. Bars are closed by order of the governor, and restaurants are still operating at limited capacity in the interest of public health.

What does this all mean for the urban center of Louisville? Will the downtown those workers and sports fans and diners and tourists eventually (hopefully?) go back to look anything like the one they left behind?

This Friday on “In Conversation,” we talk about the challenges this year has brought to downtown Louisville, and what the future might hold.

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Laura oversees WFPL's podcast strategy and produces Curious Louisville, where listeners submit questions and our reporters find out the answers.