The University of Louisville Foundation is working on plans to completely overhaul the triangular, 7-acre Stansbury Park across Third Street from the University of Louisville’s Belknap Campus. Plans call for a major restoration of the park’s original turn-of-the-century Olmsted Brothers’ layout to connect the Belknap Campus with the rest of the community. The project will cost an estimated $12.5 million and will begin once enough donations have been secured by the Foundation.
Originally called the Third Street Triangle and then Triangle Park, the refurbished Stansbury Park looks to build upon recent growth in the surrounding neighborhoods and will set the stage for future University development around the park. With a new addition to the Speed Museum in the works, hundreds of new student housing units coming online this year, and plans for a mixed-use redevelopment of the Masterson’s block to the north, Stansbury Park could serve as the focal point for a growing area around the University.
Plans include extending Unity Place (first called Park Place and then Confederate Place) to restore the park’s triangular shape. To do this, a mid-century dormitory built half-way in the park will be torn down. A future building could house a University Inn and a restaurant facing the park with outdoor dining. The master plan for Stansbury Park was created by Rowland Design of West Main Street and DLK Civic Design of Chicago for the U of L Foundation.
Pedestrian access and bike routes are also a major design concern for the project. Unity Place will be closed at Second Street to enhance pedestrian safety and bike access to the University and the Olmsted-designed parkways beyond. A bike pavilion could be located along Fourth Street and future transportation projects in the area will include additional bike lanes. This is an especially welcome feature considering Mayor William Stansbury, for whom the park is named, was killed by a motorist while crossing Bardstown Road on his way to church in April 1985. Later that year, the Board of Aldermen changed the park’s name from Triangle Park to Stansbury Park.
Currently, Stansbury Park is dominated by tennis courts and other active uses set haphazardly among open spaces and decaying wooden picnic tables. The only remaining aspects of the original park are several large, original trees scattered throughout the open space. Pathways hint at the original layout but tell nothing of the park’s former grandiosity. The original layout included a bandstand and “concert grove,” a round wading pool, a large pavilion, playgrounds, and even a passenger train station at Fourth Street. Many of these original features will be brought back in the new design.
The future Stansbury Park will utilize the same organizational layout as the original, but will update the uses to reflect changes in park use. Train tracks forming the park’s southern boundary will be buffered by trees and a woodland walking path. Nestled amongst the trees at the terminus of Unity Place is proposed a new “Train Station Pavilion” to reflect the location of the original. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to catch a light rail line from here, but you could gaze upon a beautiful park and imagine the day Louisville finally builds light rail.
The large, grassy, oval-shaped playing field will be resurrected as the Olmsted Lawn and will be flanked by active playgrounds and new tennis and basketball courts. A new pavilion and bandstand surrounded by a formally spaced grove of trees occupies the center of the park with an “art garden” just to the north. Another dramatic nod to the original plan is a large water feature and plaza space situated in front of space allocated for the inn and restaurant. North from here, a formal strolling garden with many benches will taper as the park comes to a point.
The current proposal is still only a guiding framework for what changes the University of Louisville Foundation hopes to see brought to Stansbury Park, and could be modified before the opening ribbon is cut, but we think the current master plan creates a beautiful park. The project appears to be a grand restoration of an Olmsted Brothers’ plan that could prove to be one of Louisville’s finest urban parks. And situated near the center of three major Olmsted Parkways connecting some of Louisville’s largest parks, the new Stansbury Park could potentially become the centerpiece to our own Emerald Necklace (or the hub of our Emerald Wheel?). It will certainly not only benefit the University of Louisville, but anchor surrounding neighborhoods as they grow in all directions.