Fifth Street and Muhammad Ali

Fifth Street and Muhammad Ali Blvd has about one and a half strong corners of this four way intersection.  And then nothing.  It is a dead corner.  I have discussed how I feel about Downtown Louisville urban green space here. I truly believe that the park as much the reason, if not more, that kills the street wall, the activity level, and the perception of safety on Muhammad Ali Blvd west of Fifth Street.  The half block between Fifth Street and Armory arrests redevelopment of Downtown west of Fourth Street.  This is a barrier almost as great as an expanding and under construction Interstate 65 between Downtown Louisville and both NuLu and the Medical Center.

In both of the concepts described below the park is replaced by more meaningful, and appropriately formal for the urban environment, plazas and buildings.  In the first concept, I examine the possibility of moving city departments, services, and meeting spaces to the Louisville Gardens and the space now (un) occupied by Louisville.

In the second concept, I focus only on the park space with a tower of lofts with parking mostly for bicycles.

Easter related activity in Founder's Square. April 2009.

Easter related activity in Founder’s Square. April 2009.

From Founder's Square looking east on Muhammad Ali.

From Founder’s Square looking east on Muhammad Ali.


the Louisville Gardens

the Louisville Gardens


In the first concept, I repurpose the Louisville Gardens as offices and meeting spaces for Louisville Metro.  I believe a meeting spaces more modern and dignified that that in the Old Jail Building is warranted for the 21st Century city.  Archival and similar functions could be proudly arranged and day-lit within the old armory.  On the park a new Art-Deco style building would be constructed.  This building would be purpose built for the customer service needs of the river city: one-stop on the ground level with increasing specialization as the floor number ascends.  It could house those offices now within the Fiscal Court Building.  The top level is reserved for the top level Fortune 100 recruitment strategy sessions of the Economic Development Department.  Maybe the roof is just as great as viewing Thunder as it is in landing helicopters of the globe’s CEOs.

The existing Metro Development Center would be demolished.  A plaza geometrically aligned with the Cathedral of the Assumption and the main side entrance of the Louisville Gardens would take its place.

Lou Metro One Stop W2

In the second concept, I focused only on developing Founder’s Park as a tower of lofts for the young professionals eager to find housing near work and entertainment in the core of the city.  The units would be big enough at least for a bed a desk and chair with some kitchen, bath, and closet space.  Not much more space is required of those who spend most of their time working or taking advantage of what the city has to offer.  The building would also provide bike maintenance and storage facilities for the residents.  With activities so close and bike routes and transit readily available for the longer trips, the building would be built without many on-site parking spaces.  Which would save both the developer and the tenant who is more interested in internet connections than owning a vehicle anyway a few dollars.

The existing Metro Development Center could be incorporated into the project or continue to be used for Metro offices.  Perhaps some community spaces could share or spill out on the green roof at 444 South Fifth Street.  By decreasing the depth of the public space on Muhammad Ali between Fifth Street and Armory Plaza, the space can more easily be filled with activity.  It will be easier to see across the space due to its decreased depth.  The plaza will have two levels to divide activities of those crossing through on the sidewalk with semi-private spaces for the buildings residents or first floor retail tenants.

5th M Ali SE drama

Of course, I always toy with the idea of a market with wines, bourbons, pastries, cheeses, deli meats, and lunch counter offerings from around the Commonwealth and world filling the Louisville Gardens.  The name gardens could evolve from an arena where Muhammad Ali meet opponents in the ring to a place prominently featuring the produce of gardens, and flavors dancing around the arena. But I just don’t know that there is enough activity downtown during the day or on the weekends to fill up a space as large as the Louisville Gardens.

Charlestown, SC City Market interior

Charlestown, SC City Market interior

Evansville, IN Schnuck's grocery store interior.  A suburban grocery store with the feel of a market

Evansville, IN Schnuck’s grocery store interior. A suburban grocery store with the feel of a market

Columbus, OH North Market interior.  Lunch time dining above the vendors below.

Columbus, OH North Market interior. Lunch time dining above the vendors below.

6 Responses to “Fifth Street and Muhammad Ali”
  1. Justin Carter says:

    Why would you build over this park? Do you know how many underutilized parking lots and wasted asphalt spaces are around this area and could better be used for your development? We don’t need to destroy the Development Center to build either one of your concepts….just look for another site (there are dozens within a two mile radius of this location).

    • Because (1) I believe that Louisville Metro’s inventory of buildings are ill suited as office space, meeting space, or for customer interactions in the 21st Century.

      And (2) I believe that Louisville has an abundance of poorly programmed public space Downtown.

      We don’t have grand plazas where shopping, dining, and civic functions spill into the park or, alternatively, we don’t have a single playground in the CBD. Either would send strong signals to businesses and families about what activities are welcome downtown. Although I do not suggest how to program the spaces in the proposed, I do indicate where open space would be with plazas in pink and landscaped areas in green.

      The large number of surface parking lots in Downtown are the obvious place to look. . I am perplexed by the economics where removing buildings for parking or maintaining parking instead of building makes sense. I have ideas for many of those lots. But in the scope of this study, I took only into consideration some of the lots where the city has control and suggested that we do more in the way of urban design, public space, use of resources, and directly encourage and subsidize development. So then the market can figure out what to do with the parking lots.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] #5 Fifth Street and Muhammad Ali concepts […]

  2. […] residences would be designed for the young professional as described in the Fifth Street and Muhammad Ali Blvd concept, the baby boomer looking to scale down and join the pulse of the city, and for the penthouse set.  […]

  3. […] It is suppressed, seemingly, by the going price of land. I keep looking for workarounds link, link to this issue when it suddenly struck me: what if the building could just float over the parking […]

  4. […] within the blogosphere and tags on a few other themes.  The Garden idea steps away from my earlier explorations of the Muhammad Ali and Fifth Street […]

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