Concrete silos on Barret Avenue. (Patrick Piuma)
Concrete silos on Barret Avenue. (Patrick Piuma)
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[Editor’s Note: Patrick Piuma is director of the the University of Louisville’s Urban Design Studio (UDS) and a board member of City Collaborative. This post originally appeared on the UDS blog and appears here with permission.]

Louisville is becoming a serious destination for recreational, competitive, and adventure sports. From hosting events like the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in 2013, to the revered and evolving Louisville Extreme Park, to the nearby Red River Gorge with its reputation as a rock climbing mecca, and now the amazing new Mega Underground Bike Park, the area has garnered national and international attention.

With initiatives like the Louisville Loop, KyMBA’s work on the extensive mountain bike trail system throughout the Olmsted Parks, and the Louisville Ride Center at the Parklands of Floyds Fork, there are, or will soon be, a lot more options for locals and tourists to experience.

But even with all the amenities the city and region have to offer, there are more opportunities to grow.

Google Earth simulated view from the roof of the silo (minus the recently demolished white silo in the foreground). (Courtesy Google)
Google Earth simulated view from the roof of the silo (minus the recently demolished white silo in the foreground). (Courtesy Google)

One potential area is creating a synergy and urban connection with the rock climbing crowds that travel to our region to take advantage of all the amazing routes at Red River Gorge. What if we converted the silos off of Barret Avenue in the Phoenix Hill Neighborhood into an urban climbing wall, complete with rooftop observation deck overlooking downtown and the Ohio River?

A rock climbing wall on a concrete silo in Buffalo. (Courtesy Silo City Rocks / Twitter)
A rock climbing wall on a concrete silo in Buffalo. (Courtesy Silo City Rocks / Twitter)

This idea isn’t new, Silo City is an initiative in Buffalo, NY that is attempting to do just that (though it appears they are experiencing some setbacks at the moment, possibly regarding the condition of the selected structure).

Converting the silos into an urban climbing mecca would offer an opportunity to not only provide another amazing recreational amenity to the city and region, but provide the prospect for rock climbers to extend their stay in the area and do that in Louisville.

Urban rock climbing at Columbus, Ohio's Scioto Audubon Metro Park.
Urban rock climbing at Columbus, Ohio’s Scioto Audubon Metro Park.

Urban climbing walls are also not a new concept. While on a City Explorer trip to Columbus last year, we had the chance to visit Scioto Audubon Metro Park. The park currently boasts the largest free outdoor climbing wall in the United States. The idea of bringing something like this to Louisville has been on our minds since the trip, but in the mindset of going “big” like so many of our great recreational amenities mentioned above, the Silos could become an iconic feature in Louisville.

There are definitely many factors that need to be consider, including if there is interest from the community and particularly the owners of the property, what state the structure is in, and the economic feasibility of such an initiative. However, there is a great deal of embodied energy in these hulking (and vanishing) towers on our landscape. Finding creative uses that could foster more healthy activity choices and attract more people to our city to enjoy recreational and adventure sports could be a boon for our entire community.

A concrete silo in Phoenix Hill under demolition on the fall of 2014. (Patrick Piuma)
A concrete silo in Phoenix Hill under demolition on the fall of 2014. (Patrick Piuma)
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Patrick Piuma

Patrick Piuma

Patrick Piuma has a Master of Urban Planning degree from the University of Louisville. As the Director of the Urban Design Studio, Patrick's main concentrations are on issues of sustainability and how the design of the built environment can improve the quality of life for its inhabitants.
Patrick Piuma

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