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Over the weekend, Spalding University announced it’s putting the demolition of the historic Puritan Uniform Rental Building for a parking lot on hold. But the university is slowly moving forward with plans to remove a large parking lot at the other side of the block. The 1.72-acre parcel on the northwest corner of Second and Kentucky streets will eventually be converted into a recreational field for Spalding students.

A map showing parking lots on the target block and parking on surrounding blocks in a lighter shade. (Map via Google / Montage by Broken Sidewalk)
A map showing parking lots on the target block and parking on surrounding blocks in a lighter shade. (Map via Google / Montage by Broken Sidewalk)

The mega-block bound by Breckinridge Street, Third Street, Kentucky Street, and Second Street in the SoBro neighborhood is more than double the size of a normal Louisville block—1,100-feet long versus around 450 feet on a square Downtown block. SoBro’s block sizes are as much a challenge for the neighborhood’s walkability and development as its nationally famous expanses of asphalt, but that’s a story for another day.

Well over half the block is covered by asphalt, but with the addition of the planned recreational fields, at least there won’t be quite as much paving contributing to Louisville’s urban heat island effect.

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(Above: The parking lot site of a future recreational field. No official plans or renderings are yet available. Mockup by Broken Sidewalk.)

“At this point, we don’t have a plan, meaning something that’s actionable. What we have is ideas,” Beth Newberry, director of Media Relations & Executive Communication, told Broken Sidewalk on Friday. Keeping true to Spalding President Tori Murden McClure’s goal not to use tuition money for sports fields and student amenities, Newberry noted that the project will be funded through private donations. Fundraising is currently underway. “It’s in the brainstorming and fundraising stage,” she said.

Newberry said the site at 960 South Second Street is often referred to as the “LG&E Property,” and property records show it is still owned by by the utility. Originally residences, the property was the long-time site of V.V. Cooke Chevrolet and later Nordic Motor Works. V.V. Cooke announced it was closing in late 1981 amid recession along with neighboring dealership Summers–Hermann Ford on Third Street. The Cooke property then covered six acres in the surrounding area. It has remained a vacant sheet of asphalt for many years.

This parking lot will eventually be converted into a recreational field for Spalding students. (Via Google)
This parking lot will eventually be converted into a recreational field for Spalding students. (Via Google)

There’s no formal design for the space yet. President McClure previously told Broken Sidewalk that she had planned to install tennis courts on the site, but feedback from students revealed a bigger need for informal recreation space. Somewhere, for instance, where students could throw a frisbee. Newberry said the site is too small for an official playing field, but the eventual design would be “something that would fit the space.”

The parking lot site in the larger neighborhood context. (Via Google)
The parking lot site in the larger neighborhood context. (Via Google)

McClure said the nearby Mother Catherine Spalding Square, a large green space on Breckinridge between Third and Fourth streets, was designed more for its green infrastructure than recreation and drains in the lawn create a tripping hazard for active uses. Newberry also noted that this recreational space will be different from the planned athletic fields at Eighth and Kentucky streets, where a series of historic warehouses were demolished by the Dover Corporation several years ago. That multi-million dollar project is also in the fundraising stage, with over $1 million raised so far.

“[There’s] no set timeline, but that space will no longer be a parking lot.” Newberry said. “Its conversion to green space is part of one of Spalding’s strategic plan initiatives to green [the] campus and surrounding environs.”

Community members paint a mural at Second and Kentucky streets. (Courtesy SoBro Louisville / Facebook)
Community members paint a mural at Second and Kentucky streets. (Courtesy SoBro Louisville / Facebook)

The recreational field at Second and Kentucky is next to a single-story structure where, earlier this year in June, a mural was painted by the community. (Watch a timelapse here.) The mural, designed by Kentucky College of Art & Design student Lionel Jones, depicts cyclists, the Presentation Academy building, and the 800 Building, according to an article at Boxing Junkie. The design was chosen by a jury last fall. The structure is used for storage by Spalding.

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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

6 COMMENTS

  1. So they’re going to make this large lot even harder to build on in future years. Terrific (heavy sarcasm). An ideal space for future residential or mixed-use buildings will be taken of the board all so Spaulding can create frisbee throwing space (where they probably won’t pick up the trash that will blow or be dropped there) that would be much better sited at one of their parking lots along 3rd or 4th. Why don’t they trade some parking at the building they want to knock down at the other end of the block for green space on 3rd or 4th? It’s increasingly clear Murden’s long term vision is some sort of suburban oasis amid the city.

  2. Agreed. Or uh, greed………
    So the fallow shallow still uncleared 8th St site will be??????? More fields of dreams? Very sad to learn the little corner building is storage.
    Connectivity two way streets and lively activity be damned. They’re stockpiling land so they can trade it for yeah maybe Buechel. Looks exactly the same………
    And then there’s the Kroger dilemma. Surrounded on all four sides by those damn one way streets and more excess parking than six malls……
    Sold.

  3. tbh I think spalding (whoever just saying that refers to) would prefer for the land values to increase so they can cash in on their land and have campus be in an area that won’t scare prospective suburbanite students, but for reasons that are beyond spaldings control the demand for housing in the center of the city just isn’t there to build a bunch of nice apartments and retail in Sobro but that day is coming

  4. I was always hoping this would be the area for Louisville City soccer stadium. Take down the Kroger, rebuild with a super awesome grocery at 4th and Oak (the old winn dixie)

  5. The wacky comments from some folks here never fail to amuse. Spalding is not actually accountable to you. Spalding (not “Spaulding”) is a private college, not a public agency. Its first responsibility is to its students and the long-term viability of the school. As Spalding moves from being being primarily a commuter college to more of a residential campus, the students in the dorms need some additional open, grassy campus spaces. Colleges do typically have them. The school is a real community asset, but it must serve its students to survive. It must make itself attractive to potential students as well. “Stockpiling” land, getting getting rid of gritty eyesores, and creating an actual campus is an integral part of that. Urban neighborhoods can be cool and inviting, but SoBro isn’t! If you want new residential and mixed use developments in the area, get financing and starting building. Spalding is merely doing what it can in the meantime to be appealing to its current and future students.

  6. I agree this would be great for Louisville Fc. It has plenty of space to not clog traffic being in Ninth, and it would totally reinvigorate the area.

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