[ Editor’s Note: This is an update of a previous article that cited information incorrectly reported by the Courier-Journal. We gathered this new information ourselves directly from the neighborhood and developers, so hopefully this should clear up the lingering mis-information out there. ]
An entire 4.5 acre block is slated for redevelopment on the southern edge of Old Louisville adjacent to the University of Louisville. Investment Property Advisors of Valparaiso, Indiana has put together a mixed-use proposal including retail space, a mix of market rate apartments and student housing, a landscaped interior courtyard, and underground parking in an attempt to create a vibrant University Center catering to students and the community at large.
The target block is bounded by Cardinal Boulevard and Bloom Street between Third & Fourth Streets. Two historic brick houses and an apartment building on the site’s northeast corner will remain and be incorporated into the project. The Masterson’s dining room and catering service, dating to the 1950s as a diner, will be demolished under the proposal.
An original plan presented to the Old Louisville neighborhood last year called for 300 housing units with 700 beds, 50,000 square feet of commercial space, and 350 to 400 parking spaces on site, mostly underground. One of the historic buildings on site would have been demolished for surface level parking and buildings on the preliminary plan would have ranged from four to seven stories. Working with the neighborhood, the developers slightly reduced the scale of the project to around 250 units with 600 beds, limited commercial space to 28,000 square feet, and cut parking down to less than 150 spaces. Perimeter building heights were held at four stories with one five story structure in the middle of the block. The project components are still being determined and are subject to change before a final plan is announced, but the developers believe a vibrant mixed-use project is the right fit for the area so close to the University.
After a meeting with Old Louisville last year, the developers reworked their plan to address neighborhood concerns about size and integration into the neighborhood. As we mentioned earlier, individual components were scaled back (700 to 600 beds, 50,000 to 28,000 square feet of commercial space). Higher quality streetscape materials were also incorporated into the project including a brick alley and traditional paving materials on sidewalks. All three historic structures were also saved in the new proposal and will be used for multi-family housing and “clubhouse” amenities with a pool. The neighborhood was happy with the changes made to the proposal, but concerns about parking and traffic remained.
Traffic and parking have long been a divisive point in the area surrounding U of L. Neighborhood leader Herb Fink and Councilman Unseld had at one point several years ago attempted to broker a parking garage deal between JCPS and U of L that would have placed a garage on the corner of Second Street and Cardinal Boulevard on Manual High School property. The plan faded with no financing available.
Some neighbors were concerned about retail competing with the traditional Old Louisville commercial center at Fourth and Oak Streets. We feel the areas are distinct enough and separate enough at a distance of about a mile that additional retail will only help the entire Old Louisville area. Oak Street has a good stock of historic storefronts, but high-quality new construction commercial space will draw tenants that wouldn’t normally choose to locate in a historic structure. With more business located in or near Old Louisville, all areas stand to gain, especially a compact and walkable district like Oak Street.
As you can see from the project renderings (still just a proposal of what might actually end up getting built), the Masterson’s block will be fundamentally changed from the predominantly surface level parking space that exists today. It appears as though the buildings are clad predominantly in brick and some sort of infill panel with metal accents. Roof terraces have been incorporated into the project and several interior courtyards are part of the plan. One linear plaza and lawn stretching north from Cardinal Boulevard into the middle of the block looks like it has potential to create an interesting urban space.
The mixed-use project has been designed by local architects and planners Sabak, Wilson, and Lingo. The firm has considerable experience planning high-quality mixed-use and new urban neighborhoods. They have worked on both the Park DuValle new urban neighborhood and Norton Commons in eastern Jefferson County. We’re pleased that this project has incorporated many important urban qualities such as a nearly continuous urban edge around the block and an emphasis on streetscape design.
Zoning still remains the dominant concern for the project. The Old Louisville Neighborhood Plan calls for three classifications of development scale: Neighborhood General (such as the bulk of Old Louisville consisting of one and two-family dwellings), Commercial Center (a dense mixed-use area centered at Fourth & Oak), and Transition Zone (a dense area bridging between the neighborhood and commercial center). The block is currently classified under Neighborhood General and would require changes to the Traditional Neighborhood Zoning District (TNZD) which presents difficult legal problems. The project won’t be able to advance until these issues are addressed.
You can see below on the proposal site plans that the buildings facing the neighborhood are set back from the street to align with the urban edge of surrounding houses while the commercial areas mainly fronting Cardinal Boulevard provide widened sidewalks. The diagonal parking shown in the plans was only a study and has been eliminated; parallel parking as it appears today will be maintained. Below, you can also get an idea about how underground parking works on the site. Parking issues still must be worked out, but we believe there is room for negotiation between the neighborhood and developers on how to proceed and meetings between the groups are scheduled for the future. This could also be an opportune time to revive the idea of a parking garage (with retail along the sidewalk, of course) at Second and Cardinal.
When we originally read in the C-J that the project had been cut from 700 beds to 150 beds among other things, it was devastating news, and luckily false. The project still has an appropriate density to create a vibrant University Center stretching south along Third Street while not overwhelming Old Louisville. The developers hope to have the project under construction by late summer, but several hurdles still exist including resolving neighborhood parking concerns, finalizing a design, and assuring proper zoning. Investment Property Advisors feel they have found an ideal opportunity for neighborhood improvement and we believe this project will do wonders to change the perception of the area adjacent to the University as one of driving and parking lots to walking and shops.