Designers suggest public art, miniparks for NuLu redo
Sheldon S. Shafer, The Courier-Journal
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With $13 million bankrolled for improvements in the emerging Nulu neighborhood east of downtown, consultants have recommended redesigning part of East Market Street as a boulevard, with a median divider and an 8-foot-wide bike trail on the south side of the street.
They also want to slow traffic, make street crossings safer for pedestrians, put a signature entrance at the I-65 underpass into the district, and develop a string of public art and miniparks. Other enhancements would include upgrading nearby alleys, adding street furniture, lighting and signs up and down East Market.
Those are among the preliminary recommendations that a team of consultants has developed for about 10 blocks of Market from Brook Street near I-65 to Baxter Avenue and the Home of the Innocents.
The ideas will be discussed at a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the new Nucleus building, 300 E. Market St. Consultants will present their preliminary conclusions to improve the Nulu neighborhood.
"We encourage attendees to share their thoughts and social, economic, historic, and environmental concerns," said Rebecca Matheny, the interim executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership. The agency serves as the lead organization for Mayor Greg Fischer on most downtown matters, and it is managing the Nulu study.
Despite the proliferation of new galleries, restaurants and businesses in the corridor, businessman Gill Holland said the Nulu district has reached only perhaps a third of its potential. Holland, who has invested heavily in Nulu, said the planned upgrades should spur substantial additional investment and "strenghen the link to downtown, to Frankfort Avenue, to Bardstown Road and to other areas."
A $13 million budget for the project, including for construction, is firm — $10 million from the state and $3 million from the Metropolitan Sewer District committed for reducing stormwater runoff.
Ethan Howard, the downtown partnership's business-development coordinator, said several million more is expected to be available from the Ohio River Bridges Project — specifically for work near I-65, where Spaghetti Junction is getting a makeover, or along Market between Floyd and Clay streets.
A team of nine consulting firms is being paid about $340,000 out of the funds. They are led by Carman, a landscape architectural, planning and engineering firm with offices in Louisville and Lexington, and Workshop: Ken Smith, another landscape design firm, from New York City.
Matheny said the Metro Planning Commission and Louisville Metro Council are not required to approve the final Nulu plan. But a variety of city agencies will probably review it, and another public meeting or two may be set.
Construction on the first projects may begin early next year — they will have to be carefully coordinated with the downtown bridge effort, Matheny said. The bulk of the recommended Nulu improvements likely can begin early next year and most of them completed by when the new downtown bridge opens around mid-2016, Carman said.
According to Carman, here are some of the key preliminary proposals for the Nulu arts and entertainment neighborhood:
• Redesign Market Street to have two eastbound and one westbound lane. An eight-foot wide, slightly elevated "bike trail" would go on the south side of the street between the sidewalk and a parking lane.
• The 300 block of Market (Floyd to Preston) and the 800 block (Campbell to Shelby) would have a landscaped median boulevard.
• To assist pedestrian safety, every intersection's four corners would have "bump outs" or curb extensions to shorten the crossing distance and to slow vehicles.
• 15 to 20 "mini public gardens" would be developed along the corridor with the MSD money, including at some parking lots, to catch stormwater and slow runoff.
Some project possibilities include pocket parks, small groves of trees and other landscaping techniques, storefront and sidewalk courtyards, and upgrading of lighting and signs.
Holland, whose investment has included redeveloping the vast former Wayside Christian Mission complex on East Market, said the consultant conclusions "are the culmination of a lot of public input and thoughtful design work."
Holland, president of the Nulu Business Association, said the improvements "will enhance all the good things we already have, in terms of the neighborhood's walkability, being pedestrian-friendly and sustainability."
Joe Ley, owner of Joe Ley Antiques, 615 E. Market, a pioneer who has operated his store in the Phoenix Hill area for 38 years, said he has concern about construction disrupting the flow of traffic to his store. He said it already has been disrupted to some degree by the recent bridge construction.
But, when all the improvements are done, "it's bound to be good for everybody," Ley said.
Reporter Sheldon S. Shafer can be reached at (502) 582-7089. Follow him on Twitter at @sheldonshafer.
Meeting today at 5:30 p.m. at Nucleus
The ideas will be discussed at a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. today (Thursday) at the new Nucleus building, 300 E. Market St. Consultants will present their preliminary conclusions. The meeting will be in the first-floor conference room; free parking is available on site.
In the next day or two, the preliminary concepts will be posted on www.carmansite.com/nulu. People can submit comments on the site later, or at the meeting.