Yesterday it was announced that Louisville’s West Main Street was selected as one of the Top Ten Great Streets in America, and what a great designation. But is Main Street really there yet? Does it currently have what it takes to be a truly great street? It depends what your criteria are.
According to the American Planning Association who hands out the awards:
APA has singled out West Main as one of the Great Streets in America for 2008 given the street’s rich architectural legacy, unique sense of place, and contributions to downtown Louisville’s redevelopment, which has attracted $1.8 billion in reinvestment since 1992.
Looking at West Main that way, it certainly deserved its spot on the top ten list. The architecture is definitely unparalleled and with the help of a high-quality street-scape does provide a real sense of place. It is also true the reemergence of West Main Street signaled a renewed interest in downtown and has been the poster-child of what downtown Louisville can be. There are now more people and activities on the street than ever before, from restaurants, to some of the most creative industries in the city, to museums and a few small shops. There are even a few people living on West Main in buildings like the Harbison Condos. But is the place ‘real’ yet. Does it exude that urban vitality that all great streets have. To an extent, yes, but West Main is still fairly dead after 5:00 pm except during a few programmed events every year. Retail shops still can’t stay in business long and no one could live a walkable lifestyle here: all the daily necessities simply cannot be walked to.
We’re not down on West Main Street, it is destined to become Louisville’s greatest street. Just don’t rest on our laurels too long and forget all the work that needs to be done to transform the street from a museum district into a living community. Not just a destination but a place.
- West Main Street Named Great Main Street (Metro Lou)
- West Main Street: Historic Architecture Inspires Street Renaissance (APA)
- 2008 Great Places in America Awards (APA)