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Call it a win for the Smoketown neighborhood. Mayor Greg Fischer and Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) Executive Director Tony Parrott have confirmed that the sewer agency will push to redesign the embattled Logan Street CSO Basin as an at-grade facility topped with a community-serving park.

Fischer and Parrott met with leaders from the neighborhood including the Smoketown Neighborhood Association and Reverend Bruce Williams of Bates Memorial Baptist Church ahead of a community meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

“We’ve been looking hard over the past several days to find an option to build at grade,” Parrott said in a conference call Tuesday. MSD has been working with its engineers to determine if such a change of plans is feasible, and Parrott said it appears that now is the perfect time to move in a different direction, despite construction commencing a year ago. “We’re in the preliminary phases of planning the solution and negotiating with our contractor,” he said.

The basin site. (Courtesy Google)
The basin site. (Courtesy Google)

“We’re at a perfect spot in construction in terms of achieving the objectives we want to achieve with regard to the size of the tank,” Parrot said. MSD is under a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get Louisville’s Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) problem under control to stop polluting Beargrass Creek and the Ohio River with wastewater.

“If there’s going to be a change, the sooner we make that the less costly it’s going to be,” Mayor Fischer added.

While no cost figures on the change are yet available, Parrott is working on recommendations for an at-grade tank to present at an MSD board meeting on Monday. The board will have the final say on whether the changes move ahead.

Parrott said he needs the board’s authority to negotiate a change order with the contractor, since the bid was issued in 2014.

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“This was a 2009 decision” to build the CSO basin, Fischer said of the project. “Smoketown was a different place than it is today… There’s been a lot of change in the neighborhood. When you visit the site and you look around, it makes you think there’s options to go with other than what the original plan was.”

The CSO basin is being built to store excess waste and rainwater from Louisville combined sewer system during storm events until it can be handled by MSD’s treatment plants. The 17-million-gallon tank was originally budgeted at $45 million. Smoketown’s basin was the only one of a dozen in the city not to be designed as an at-grade facility.

Even with an at grade facility, Parrott said an above-grade Control Building housing pumps and generators—about the size of a two-car garage—will be necessary on the site, and he hopes to work with the neighborhood to get input on how that structure might look.

The new park on top of the Logan Street CSO Basin would be designed with community input, and Parrott described its scale as “enormous,” which corresponds with the scale of the overall project. “We’re going to be working with the neighborhood to get feedback,” he said. “We want them to decide what they want in terms of the amenity itself.”

The agency had previously brought in Louisville architecture firm De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop to lead meetings on redesigning the facade of the above-ground basin, and Parrott said the firm may stay on to work on the redesigned project. “I think we will take a lot of what they have brought to the table and let the neighborhood help us decide,” Parrott said. “They are a great architecture firm and we’d like to continue working with them.”

MSD had received a letter from the Smoketown neighborhood threatening litigation if major changes to the basin project were not made. Those issues have been covered on Broken Sidewalk here and here. Last week, 100 people walked out of a meeting with MSD in protest over the redesign of the above-grade facility.

Fischer praised the Smoketown neighborhood for standing up and voicing their concerns about the CSO basin.

[Top image by De Leon & Primmer from an earlier community design workshop. It does not depict an at-grade facility, but does show green space.]
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Branden Klayko

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

7 COMMENTS

  1. Basketball courts please, so the kids in my neighborhood that play basketball on Swan St. (between Brent St. and Breckinridge) won’t be dodging speeding cars anymore.

  2. I’ve worked on projects like this in China since 2008. It’s quite doable and the parks I’ve designed and installed on ‘roof’ gardens have resulted in ‘green’ communities. The parks usually had to have 1 meter of topsoil and that is sufficient for grass, plant and tree growth. Great idea!

  3. Hey MSD !

    How about Metro passing a CSO ordinance to require retrofitted onsite green infrastructure to reduce the volume of storm water going into the sewers that feed the basin. That could cut the required volume significantly–boom case over! Mid Crappy Mall and the Barrett Gov’t centr parking lots could do their share to reduce clean rainwater being turned into dirty sewage that has to be treated. Am I talking Chinese or something ? Rainwater should be captured at rooftops and reused and kept out of the basins. That would save ratepayer dollars year after year. Wake up to 2016!

  4. Power to the people! There is enormous potential to transform a predominantly industrial section of Smoketown into a vibrant neighborhood, same as what was done when Waterfront Park cleaned out the old industrial section along River Road.

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