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.
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.
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.
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.