Workers have been installing the new sidewalks in front of the Waterfront Plaza towers on Main Street for a little while now, and there’s enough of the new tri-color pattern in place to get a good look at the design. The paving idea was born of several meetings hosted by Harvard urban design professor Alex Krieger. We were at those community meetings and can tell you that a lot of good ideas came out of them, only to be ignored by the Arena Authority. One such example was ideas about integration of such a large facility into the community fabric and the danger of the ‘iconic’ design appeal which were largely ignored in the final design. It was a good community exercise, though.
So, these sidewalks evidently came out of the meeting (we don’t remember that part of it), and they are a drastic improvement over the red tiles installed years and years ago. The old pavers were prone to be slippery wet or dry. The new pattern incorporates half-bricks set in mortar (kinda like the ones in front of the National City Tower, or should we say PNC Tower II) with a random pattern.
The overall design is more playful than anything else in Louisville; probably one of the nicest sidewalk paving designs in the city. However, the colors are really quite bland and the overall scheme is still very tame. Dark grey, beige, and light beige just seem, well, boring. The design is still very elegant and the light and dark contrast still proves interesting, especially as it gains density and formality near the street’s edge, but something something more could have made the effect better.
Perhaps this pattern could have been placed at the edges of the district and as one approached the arena, the pattern and material gained intricacy and complexity, color and utter unexpectedness. By the time you were at the arena itself, the paving would be off the wall, but still cohesive. The overall scheme could have been as ripples expanding from the arena plaza itself, slowly normalizing and becoming part of the rest of the city.
The new paving system will eventually stretch all the way to Sixth Street and will feature new decorative lighting. New granite curbs are also being installed as part of the project (the wide ones like on West Main, not the skinny ones like on Sixth) and the streetscape should, in fact, help to connect the area under one identity. The improvements cost the city $180,000 and will be complete before the arena opens.