As the Louisville Metro Housing Authority is planning to replace the barracks-style Sheppard Square housing projects into a mixed-use, mixed-income Hope VI development, we decided to take a closer look at the Smoketown-Jackson Park neighborhood and make a few suggestions.

To begin our Smoketown series, we’re proposing a boulevard running down the edge of the neighborhood along Beargrass Creek. Pictured above is the stretch of boulevard running through Smoketown, terminating at Kentucky Street and a public square. After the click, you can see the full proposal stretching to Main Street, mostly falling on the alignment of the current Chestnut Street Connector.

The purpose of the boulevard is to create a linear park running parallel to Beargrass Creek while connecting Smoketown with its surrounding neighborhoods. While is may appear that the boulevard is pulling away from the neighborhood, located on its periphery, its location was chosen for its power to connect the Smoketown grid and provide a monumental axis for the neighborhood without disrupting the existing historic fabric.

Proposed Boulevard from Main to Kentucky Streets
Proposed Boulevard from Main to Kentucky Streets. (Broken Sidewalk)

Let’s begin with the Boulevard’s route starting at Main Street (We’ll call the street Beargrass Boulevard for sake of conversation). Baxter Avenue meets the Chestnut Street Connector (CSC) at Jefferson Street and turns to terminate at Main Street. This two-block stretch of Baxter and the Chestnut Street Connector south from Baxter would be renamed Beargrass Boulevard. This makes sense as the streets are directly in-line with one another.

Next, Beargrass Boulevard follows the current alignment of the CSC until about Chestnut Street where it’s re-routed to Broadway. Currently, the CSC splits at Gray Street, slicing through a block and funneling traffic into the heart of Phoenix Hill. The current configuration forces the user to make a 90-degree turn onto Shelby Street at a stop sign before continuing across Broadway. The new Beargrass Boulevard would remain a single street and utilize a space currently occupied by a parking lot between the Broadway Goodwill and the old Steepleton store so as to avoid demolition of historic buildings.

Once across Broadway, Beargrass Boulevard is a new street. It’s route shifts slightly east to meet up with Beargrass Creek and avoid as many structures as possible. Currently, several streets in Smoketown dead-end at the creek (i.e. Finzer, Mason, and Lampton streets), creating pockets of abandonment and neglect. They feel quite dangerous to talk down alone, yet are still lines with large-scale historic industrial buildings. Beargrass Boulevard would transform these dead-ends into proper blocks lined by a park.

After crossing Breckinridge Street, Beargrass Boulevard continues along the Creek until it terminates at the intersection of Kentucky Street and Logan Street. A stray patch of land where Kentucky Street curves would ideally serve as a terminating plaza with a monument or fountain.

The linear park, among other things, could feature pedestrian bridges connecting to Paristown Pointe and Germantown across the Creek and a bike path to Broadway. Where Beargrass Creek turns upstream east, a larger recreational park is proposed on the site of a current coal yard on Swan Street to compliment the varying uses of a linear park and urban plaza.

The alignment of the road was chosen to minimize impacts on the current building stock, but like all interventions of this sort, a few structures are in the way. The potential benefits of the connections and parks that could spur development in the area would help to offset the loss of a few structures.

Keep in mind that this is only an idea with no official support or endorsement. There are vast issues with right-of-way that the city would need to acquire if something like this could ever work. There are easements along the creek and some of the land is already owned by the city, but it’s still a difficult proposition. The proposal was left purposefully simple for the sake of discussion. Perhaps, too, the finer details of design and such could be considered later.

What do you think? Would this plan help to revitalize Smoketown and its neighbors? What are the strengths and weaknesses you see in the proposal?

Proposed Boulevard from Main to Kentucky Streets
Proposed Boulevard from Main to Kentucky Streets. (Broken Sidewalk)

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden is a writer and architectural designer living in Brooklyn. After graduating from the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, Branden practiced architecture in Louisville where he worked on several large LEED Certified buildings. Branden is the senior web editor at The Architect’s Newspaper, where he covers architecture, design, and urbanism. He has also written about design for Designers & Books, sustainability for Inhabitat, and architecture for the American Institute of Architects. He founded Broken Sidewalk in 2007, an online collaborative promoting architecture and urbanism in Louisville, Kentucky and the Midwest.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Hopefully I will be able to post more of those proposals online soon. This one does include turning lanes at major intersections. I left the lane markers off since the scale was so small and to keep it just a general proposal. I didn't want it to get stuck in the nitty-gritty of design – just yet. I plan on including some blow-ups of the street when I find some time that show more detail such as bike lanes and turning lanes.

    In terms of its funding, the Bridges Project threatens all road funding if it doesn't have a financing deal worked out by this December. That's one of the reasons why the money-saving 8664.org proposal is so interesting as it allows other important local transportation ideas to move forward.

    I never included funding ideas in the proposal since new urban streets are difficult from the outset. Perhaps community block grants covering other infrastructure improvements on the Shepherd Square redevelopment could contribute.

    The important thing is to get some ideas for Smoketown on the table while the neighborhood is in the news. I will have a few more posts about it in coming days and weeks.

  2. Branden, I’m glad to see you’re finally posting some of those proposals I saw you working on at the coffee shop all the time. I can’t wait to see more!

    As for this particular idea, I hope it includes dedicated left-turn lanes like they’re doing for Eastern Parkway’s road diet. Your drawings don’t indicate them.

  3. I like this idea, i think it helps connect Smoketown with the rest of the surrounding neighborhoods. I also think this is a great chance for Louisville to add some more park space to the existing park infrastructure. The one concern i have is funding, this is a time when the powers that be are trying with all their might to push through the Bridges Project and seem to not want to add any additional road projects to the docket. But all in all, great idea!

  4. a uk student made a thematically similar proposal as part of a design studio on the redevelopment of smoketown/shelby park neighborhoods in a design studio i taught in spring 2005. the challenge, of course, is making that stretch of beargrass creek look less like a concrete ditch (e.g., l.a. river) and more like an amenity. if i remember right, he did a pretty good job of identifying good contributing properties along the beargrass/logan corridor and made them key inroads in making the pedestrian connection to the creek.

    i’ll see if i can dig it up.

  5. I like the general idea, but I’d like it even better if, south of Broadway, this proposed street was pedestrians/runners/bikes only. That would fit more in the nature of the park, and I don’t think Smoketown needs another north/south artery (light traffic on Shelby and Logan in the mornings support what I’m saying). A dedicated non-car north/south route would be fantastic for improving overall safety and for encouraging bike commuters from Smoketown and neighborhoods slightly south of it (such as Germantown, Schnitzelburg, Shelby Park, etc.). Plus, those neighborhoods don’t have a large amount of green space (with the exception of Shelby Park), so that would be an added bonus. Now, if Louisville could clean up Beargrass Creek, it could be even better.

  6. Joel, I agree pedestrian streets are great, but I’m not convinced this spot is the best candidate right now. The area is out of the way and somewhat secluded, so security could be an issue. I have walked and biked along the paths along Beargrass Creek in Butchertown and Irish Hill and have, at times, felt too far away from the “safety of traffic,” if you know what I mean. Even now, it doesn’t feel completely safe to walk down those dead-end streets in Smoketown. Development of the adjacent blocks would also be more difficult without some street access.

    The Boulevard was never really meant to serve as an “arterial” as much as a parkway with urban aspirations. The best solution, as it seems right now to me, is to try and somehow join the Boulevard itself with the park.

    That said, the Boulevard shouldn’t be too wide through this area. That should help to keep traffic moving slow and the linear park more park-like. Like you point out, many areas of urban Louisville are in drastic need of additional park space, and one of the major goals of this proposal is to bring in some public space into the city. There are plenty of opportunities for additional park space around Smoketown, too. That topic should be covered in another post soon.

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