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.
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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?