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Conceptual rendering of Hope VI development (courtesy Metro Housing Authority)
Conceptual rendering of Hope VI development. (Courtesy Metro Housing Authority)

Louisville Metro Housing Authority officials recently announced plans to tear down the Sheppard Square housing complex just south of Broadway in the Smoketown-Jackson Park neighborhood. When complete, the new mixed-income development will transform four blocks of Smoketown into a revitalized community embracing the urban fabric of the city.

Shepherd Square & Smoketown vicinity (map via Lojic)
Sheppard Square & Smoketown vicinity. (via Lojic)

Tearing down housing projects and replacing them with mixed-income neighborhoods is part of a Federal program called Hope VI and has successfully been used to replace the Cotter Lang Homes with Park DuValle and the Clarksdale Homes with Liberty Green. The Hope VI concept aims to disperse clusters of poverty associated with mid-twentieth-century barracks-style housing projects by building a mix of houses and apartments for a range of income levels. While the Metro Housing Authority maintains its commitment to replace the existing 326 units in Sheppard Square one-for-one, some may be at other locations around the Louisville area such as apartment complexes.

Conceptual rendering of Hope VI development (courtesy Metro Housing Authority)
Conceptual rendering of Hope VI development. (courtesy Metro Housing Authority)

Estimated to cost around $200 million, funding will be sought from a $20 million Federal grant and other public and private sources. Funds for the Hope VI program were initially made available under the Clinton administration, but were scaled back under the Bush administration after the president called for the the program’s removal. Metro Housing Authority Executive Director Tim Barry believes that with Louisville’s successful record at Park DuValle and Liberty Green combined with the smaller scale of the Sheppard Square complex, funding shouldn’t be an issue.

Current conditions in Smoketown near Shepherd Square
Current conditions in Smoketown near Sheppard Square. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

Several years ago, preliminary community meetings were held to determine how the project might proceed. Planning firm Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh created a series of renderings to describe what it possible in the area around Sheppard Square. While not a definite representation of what will be built, the renderings show a community of mixed-use urban buildings, apartments, and houses surrounding a park. Here’s what UDA says about such a neighborhood:

UDA plans provide a mixed-income array of housing types and costs that address the changing needs of people at different life stages. Studies have shown that the social capital created in such neighborhoods situated within walking distance of daily services, schools, and churches, is a key factor in community stability, the health of residents, and in providing role models who inspire young people and, thus support the economic and social mobility of the neighborhoods’ citizens. UDA has pioneered this return to traditional neighborhood development and remains at the forefront of these efforts.

Conceptual rendering of Hope VI development (courtesy Metro Housing Authority)
Conceptual rendering of Hope VI development. (Courtesy Metro Housing Authority)

Like Liberty Green, streets long ago removed could be replaced to create smaller scaled blocks. One example in Sheppard Square is Roselane Street which once ran through the center of the housing project (see map after the click). Reintroducing the street would create an area of seven small blocks. Hancock Street, currently closed to through traffic, could be reopened as part of the plan.

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21 COMMENTS

  1. I think this is a great project and reflects the continued efforts of Louisville to improve the living conditions and economic conditions of the downtown corridor. I applaud the Louisville Housing Authority for their efforts.

  2. How much more exciting would it be to see this property transformed into a vibrant new urban park (Olmsted influenced!) with a grand entrance on Broadway. A tremendous amount of existing property in the area is available for redevelopment and increasing the supply of new space will make it very difficult for existing property owners to justify renovations (supply and demand). In essence we will be creating an island of mixed use development to replace an island of poverty. A park would be a catalyst that would spur creative new space in the surrounding area and that would in the end transform a much larger area of the city while creating a unique asset for the entire community.

    The Louisville Housing Authority should stick to building and managing properties for the least well off amongst us and leave the construction of market rate residential and commercial property to the private sector. How many hours of the Housing Authorities time will be spent overseeing the development of the market rate housing/commercial space that will replace Shepherd Square instead of being spent focusing on its stated purpose, "The mission of the Louisville Metro Housing Authority is to provide quality, affordable housing for those in need, assist residents in their efforts to achieve financial independence, and work with the community to strengthen neighborhoods?"

    This is clearly a better alternative than the existing situation, but it is not the creative game changing vision that would be a model for others or the right fit for this property. It seems the housing authority has developed a comfort level with this type of project and doesn't want to invest additional energy into envisioning other alternatives.

    The city would get much more bang for the buck by the creation of a "central park" and encouraging redevelopment and new development in the surrounding area than by implementing this plan. Overall costs would be much lower and we would be creating a unique asset for the city. It is not often that such a large parcel of land is available for creating more green space in the urban environment; let’s not rush to accept an O.K. project.

  3. Any chance of increasing the scope of the project? That portion of Broadway is just a rag-tag collection of parking lots and fast food joints.

    If the Housing Authority is clueless as how to provide for the lost units, they should buy up the parking lots there, do some zero lot line building of 3 or 4 stories with ground floor retail and inexpensive subsidized units above.

  4. i SORT OF agree with dan. ultimately the housing authority does need to re-place the major portion of the housing it dis-places, and that housing needs to remain affordable to current residents.

    but, as much as i like the idea of mixing in market-rate with subsidized housing, the housing authority themselves maybe should not be the ones watching over the development of this market-rate housing.

    ‘OK’ is exactly the right call on what this project exhibits so far, but market-rate needs to excite buyers, not just be OK/ho-hum. the idea of making an exciting catalyst project (maybe a park, maybe not) that developers might group their projects around has some potential.

  5. I have been looking around for property downtown and found a wonderful brick camelback in smoketown. It needs some decorating but I keep looking at it. The neighborhood is holding me back though. The crime stats for the area are bad. It would truly be wonderful if this area was rejuvenated.

  6. Actually, HAL (Housing Authority of Louisville) doesn’t manage their Hope IV developments. Usually a third party does. I know that’s how it works at Park Duvalle. However, the company that manages Park DuValle has come under a lot of scrutiny because they haven’t done a good job. There was story about it in the C-J a couple of sundays ago.

    As far as Sheppard Square goes, I have mixed feelings. These developments do improve the area dramatically. However, most of the old residents are left in lurch. There isn’t a whole lot of affordable housing to absorb these new residents. HAL will have to find a place for them before they can start construction. If it’s like Liberty Green then less than 5% of former public housing residents will live in the new development.

  7. It would be nice if the replacements were of the same quality and scale as that little mixed-use building at the corner of Broadway and Shelby (built by the housing authority?). Something in keeping with the scale of the surviving 19th century buildings, which was mostly one and two story with the occasional 2.5 or three story commercial block.

    The neighborhood looks like it was originally mostly early shotgun houses (per the 1870s and 1880s atlases available at the UofL site), perhaps like that survivor in the pix sixth from bottom.

  8. Some good ideas going around. Whatever the final outcome, it looks like this could be a turning point for the Smoketown-Jackson Park neighborhood. In coming weeks, I will present a few other ideas that mesh well with some of yours and the Hope VI model that could make the transition from Shepherd Square to post-Shepherd Square easier.

  9. I'm not sure i agree with the idea of turning the entire area into a park. Maybe only a block of it. Anyway, if these buildings are torn down (and i hope they are, they are somewhat terrifying on the inside, decades of smoke, cinder block walls, dirty and impossible to really get clean) I hope they opt for a mixed use development that is much more dense than liberty green. something akin to the way jefferies point in east boston looks seems affordable and pratical. A lot of triple and four deckers with with retail on the bottom.

  10. I own one of the buildings within the area on the map. I lived there for several years (now it's my workshop) and until the Clarksdale projects were torn down it was very very quiet around there, other than for a couple of hours when the soup kitchen was serving. After Clarksdale went down the crack/meth dealers moved in in droves. I originally bought the property because the projects were slated for demolition and there was going to be a streetcar running down Preston right outside the door. The election of Shrub and the GOP takeover in 2002 made sure any plans to help the poor were history. Hopefully work can get done quickly before the next onslaught of American stupidity.

  11. I hear most of the residents will be displaced in Post Oak apartments in Lyndon. I can tell you that I for one would not like this to happen. As we all know (only some admit) with section 8 housing and public housing crime rates increase and property values plummet. Why should i work a 40 hour week to pay my house payment only to have the value of my house fall because the HAL wants to move the WORST project in Louisville to the east end?

  12. Bryan, you speak the truth. Look at us over in Germantown. Do you think I got this nickname for knitting? When Clarksdale went down, Section 8 moved a lot of the residents to G-Town. Didn’t matter if the house was falling down and moldy and filty and ill-kept. It was free shelter. Most of the houses that just needed a little love back then, now just need demolition, after all these years of constant abuse. Now I spend my free time keeping track of juvenile delinquents whose parents are home drawing welfare benefits and watching cable instead of raising their kids right and keeping them off the streets. I keep the cops informed about the 17 year old gun-toting dope dealer around the corner who lives with his mother (who is receiving section 8 benefits.) I am constantly after the Housing Authority to stop passing inspections for Section 8 qualification of some of these houses. They are absolute horrific and an animal should not live in them, let alone a family. Germantown used to be the cleanest, nicest community in Louisville, now its a hit or miss of working people like you and me trying to make a life, the slum lords, the poor, the ignorant and the criminal. At this point, we have way too many social issues for one little community.

  13. Liberty Green and Park Duvalle are public private partnerships. The Housing authority works with private developers to insure a mixed income neighborhood i.e. not all section 8. Part of the reason they are able to do these massive projects with limited federal funds is because they build denser housing on centrally located real estate with a combination of public (city/federal) and private money and do not replace them with parks. The concentration of poverty is never a good thing. All of the people in public housing are not criminals/thugs but a disproportionate percentage of them are bad parents, hard drug users or all around lazy stupid people that throw their trash on the ground. For the children growing up in this environment they are more likely to change their behavior if they see a significant amount of their neighbors going to work in the morning and picking up trash that is on the ground. In regards to mixed use High rises, how many corner stores, small offices, coffee shops, yoga studios, etc, can be supported in a mid to low income neighborhood on moderate traffic streets? Broadway and Market street both have vacant store fronts and they are planning on adding small retail spaces to the edge of Liberty Green. There just is not enough demand for all the small scale retail spaces that are being built. What is really needed is a bog box store for the moderate to low income people in the area. Also High-rise public housing buildings are out of favor because they are unpoliceable.

  14. I own (and live) a house in Smoketown, so as a property owner, I have an interest in seeing the neighborhood improve. I also believe poverty should not be concentrated.
    I still have trouble supporting the plan. The thing that bugs me about this plan is that $200 million divided into less than 326 units is a lot of money (plus giving away the land) considering that most of the current residents will not get to move back in and they will be stuck on a section-8 waiting list. The waiting list is really long. This means that many people just go homeless. There is a reason that Hope VI is being discontinued. We need a better solution.

  15. mane fuck yall this is home to people and yall jus gon tear it down n say fuck you leave jus cos its the hood maybe if yall donated money to actually improve poverty in a way the streets would embrace but guess what its 2011 and the squares still standin obviously racism is still alive jus in a diffrent form

  16. you my friend deserve to rott in hell instead of reaching out to people and helping them u wanna see them put in jail and made even worse people like dnt understand that this is all we know i was one of those juvinile delinquits and i robbed stole and sold but now i look outside the box n see how to really make it out of poverty but people like only aid the police whos job isnt to serve and protect its to arrest and convict and guess what i lived on ash for 14 years of my life n trust me all my friends dnt rob because there bad people they rob because they want what they could never have some support they rob cos its all they know u just keep the cycle going by persecuting us and not helping us @moxie crimefighter

  17. Originally Posted By kilemane fuck yall this is home to people and yall jus gon tear it down n say fuck you leave jus cos its the hood maybe if yall donated money to actually improve poverty in a way the streets would embrace but guess what its 2011 and the squares still standin obviously racism is still alive jus in a diffrent form

    Classy. I’m not even sure what aspect of the situation you are supporting or denouncing, but the sense of entittlement is alive and well.

  18. Interesting reading these old comment sections and how predictions never materialized or how comments turned out to be so false

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