Officials from Metro Louisville, the Metro Housing Authority (LMHA), and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gathered in May to announce funding for Louisville’s third HOPE VI development on the site of the current Sheppard Square housing project in the Smoketown-Jackson neighborhood. After a failed attempt last year, LMHA was awarded a $22 million federal grant that will jump start the estimated $167 million redevelopment, with additional funding expected to come from public and private sources.
Long in planning, the future of Sheppard Square will resemble the Park DuValle neighborhood or the nearby Liberty Green, with traditional-styled, market-rate and subsidized residential buildings built under the guidelines of New Urbanism.
Sheppard Square, built in 1943, currently covers 16 acres with 326 units just south of East Broadway. Tim Barry, executive director at LMHA, said the first step in redeveloping the area is to relocate the remaining tenants—expected to be complete by the end of the year—and then begin demolition in early 2012. Infrastructure construction could begin as soon as the end of next year, but Barry said he is working on a five-year time frame for the federal grant, so progress won’t be far off.
Arranged in Louisville’s typical 20th-century barracks-style layout, Sheppard Square creates an alienating urban experience that’s out of character with the mixed-use neighborhood predominated by shotgun houses. The new plan—which won’t be called Sheppard Square but will include homage to the namesake Dr. Sheppard—brings single and multi-family buildings back to the street with a central linear park along Hancock Street—dubbed Hancock Green—forming a focal point for the neighborhood. “We always want to build something consistent with the existing architecture,” said Barry.
Planning for the project began over six years ago, said Bernard Pincus, director of development at LMHA. Original concepts were drawn by Pittsburgh-based Urban Design Associates, who also worked on Louisville’s other HOPE VI neighborhoods. Finalized plans call for 345 new units on site including market rate apartments and single-family houses.
As is apparent in the site plan below, Hancock Street will be reopened to traffic—it’s currently cut in half by the metal boxing glove statue (visible in the rendering at the top) which will be relocated to Hancock Green. Roselane Street (originally Rose Lane according to historic maps) will be restored between Hancock and Preston Streets while to the east, Gaddie Street will span Jacob and Lampton Streets, redefining the historic small-scale blocks in the neighborhood.
In an agreement with the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), a recreational area adjacent to Meyzeek Middle School will be located at the southwest corner of the site with one block on Lampton Street closed to auto-traffic. Barry declined to say what the new pedestrian walkway would look like as it’s still underdevelopment with JCPS. The recreational fields would be available for public use.
At Hancock and Roseland streets, the old Presbyterian Community Center (PCC), a grand historic building, will be restored and converted into offices and apartments for the elderly and disabled veterans. “We’re going to do a bang-up job on the old community center,” said Barry. “It’s of great importance to the community.” An addition will be built to the south of the existing structure, which is unfortunately set back from the corner (a result of maintaining sight-lines for motorists Pincus explained).
Between 25 and 30 market-rate, single-family houses will surround the old PCC and Hancock Green, each with its own private garage. Higher density units will be located nearest to East Broadway.
Barry said LMHA is exploring out-parcels as well including the two-story former Duvall Liquor store at the southwest corner of Hancock and Breckinridge streets. The historic building could be converted into apartments, possibly with a retail space on the first floor. Another option is a vacant block to the northwest of Sheppard Square that was once home to the original Hillerich & Bradsby “Louisville Slugger” factory and is still owned by the Hillerich family. Barry said LMHA “would certainly pay homage to the site as the original bat factory.” For now, the main focus remains on the original Sheppard Square footprint.
Among the unique features of the redevelopment are the sustainable components, including green rainwater management systems to help reduce combined sewer overflow, a major problem in Louisville. Sheppard Square represents an increase from measures taken at Liberty Green, said Barry. Pervious pavers will definitely be part of the mix, but he assured us that’s just a start. (We’re hoping for curb-side rain gardens.) Like Liberty Green, every building will be Energy Star rated, but the new development will also be an Enterprise Green Community which takes sustainability to the neighborhood level.
The new Sheppard Square will be a residential development with no planned commercial space, but Barry said the project is intended to spur additional private redevelopment in the surrounding Smoketown-Jackson neighborhood, which has ample potential to bring in a mix of additional uses.