While it only represents .006 percent of the recently passed $822 million budget for Metro Louisville in the next year, $50,000 in funds could go a long way in planning for a better Frankfort Avenue.
Those funds, part of $1,090,000 slated for sidewalks, will pay for the Frankfort Avenue Sidewalk Extension Project, an upcoming study that will look at a .8-mile stretch of Frankfort Avenue between Pope Street and River Road. That study could get underway this fall.
“I’m particularly interested in the sidewalk connection because we have a pretty much totally missing sidewalk from Story Avenue until River Road,” Metro Councilman Bill Hollander (D-9) told Broken Sidewalk. “You see people all the time going from Butchertown, Clifton going down to the waterfront walking in the street. It’s really a high priority for me.”
While the $50,000, which became available July 1, won’t pay for any sidewalks outright—it’s only for a planning study—it does pave the way for a completely new streetscape from Pope Street to River Road in the future. “We’re probably a few months away from getting this started,” Hollander said.
“We plan to start on Frankfort Avenue in the fall,” Gretchen Milliken, director of advanced planning at Develop Louisville, said. The study will be conducted out of her department, but there are several steps that need to be completed first.
This fall, Develop Louisville will issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a consultant to conduct the study, which generally takes around two weeks. Then the city will review the responses and issue a contract, which takes another couple weeks.
“This isn’t a really long one—six months max,” Milliken said. “We do want to get the community engagement piece right.” Once the study is complete, then funding for the actual sidewalks and streetscapes will be sought. That amount could run into the millions of dollars depending on the recommendations of the study.
The project bounds begin at Frankfort Avenue and Pope Street at the top of the hill where Frankfort rises up from Beargrass Creek. “There’s a section between Story and Pope Street,” Hollander said, “where much of it is not very visually appealing.” For instance, around Frankfort and Mellwood, there’s a used car lot, an abandoned gas station, a parking lot, and the blank wall of a metal warehouse.
“It crosses Beargrass Creek,” Hollander continued. He said an old bridge over the creek with iron railings is in need of repair. “The state’s reaction to that was to put up these huge chain link sections over the black fencing. Now the weeds have grown up and you can’t see the creek.”
Then the situation gets really bad. “You’ve got to get around the flood wall,” Hollander said. “It needs some thought and engineering.” Milliken agreed: “The flood wall is going to be an issue,” she said. “It’s really tight there.” She said the study will consider, among other things, the feasibility of cutting a pedestrian doorway into the flood wall.
Past the floodwall, there are no sidewalks at all. “You have the entrance to the impoundment lot, the concrete plant,” Hollander said. “Right now, the study area is a complete mess.”
Toward the waterfront at the base of the old Heigold House facade, Botanica is planning an ambitious new Waterfront Botanical Gardens. “We’re not doing this because of Botanica,” Milliken said, “but that’s going to be a big piece of it.” She add that the city could try to coordinate with Public Works on repaving the corridor as part of the project.
For many Frankfort Avenue effectively ends at Story Avenue, but there’s a lot of potential to create a real gateway to Waterfront Park and the Ohio River. “It’s about connectivity to the riverfront, it’s about pedestrian safety and how that corridor gets used,” Milliken said. Changes here can’t come soon enough.