[Editor’s Note: Earlier today, Elijah McKenzie explained how MSD is combating combined sewer overflows in Louisville with a combination of green and gray infrastructure. One of those gray projects is a large CSO Basin on Logan Street in Smoketown that presents an ugly face to the neighborhood. Here, urban planner Nick Seivers proposes simple design interventions to dress up MSD’s plan. The post originally appeared on Seivers’ blog, Urban Composition, where he re-imagines various sites around the city. He has been a regular contributor to Broken Sidewalk.]
At the Shelby Park Germantown Rail Corridor meeting in July, representatives of the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) introduced the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) solution for a recently cleared site on Logan Street, southeast of the Breckenridge Street intersection in Smoketown.
The planning and engineering phases, cost-benefit analysis, and discussions with federal agencies are all complete (3MB pdf). The design of the Logan Street CSO will not be reopened or revisited—except to dress it up a little bit. MSD has some money in reserve to break up the massing of the aboveground portion of the detainment basin.
Some outrage over the lack outreach was expressed at the Shelby Park Germantown Rail Corridor Meeting, particularly by a spokesperson of the recently organized I.D.E.A.S. 40203 which received grants for creating public art in the area. That group would like to activate the boring expanse of wall on Logan and Breckenridge streets proposed by engineers for MSD. I and MSD agree with this concept.
Executing this concept in a way to build up and support everyday street life, community building events, and showcasing artwork within the limited budget of a governmental entity is an entirely different discussion. We have all seen faux storefronts on big box stores and parking garages. And we have all seen artists airdrop art on disadvantaged neighborhoods. I believe both efforts to be well intentioned but lacking in authenticity and impact.
So let’s maximize the green—sustainable infrastructure and return on dollars spent.
Here’s what we know: Breckenridge Street runs one-way going west. Logan Street runs one-way going north. Beargrass Creek—of which the CSO structure will intercept sewerage prior to overflow—is channelized. The CSO structure will have nearly 500 feet of uninterrupted wall on Logan Street and parking and loading on Breckenridge Street. A double-buffered bike lane has recently been striped on Breckenridge. A bus line operates on Logan. Beargrass Creek will remain channelized here. Of the two streets, I would say Breckenridge carries more traffic. Logan Street is more residential in nature.
So, what if we concentrated the human activity at the corner of Breckenridge and Logan streets? Build a nice bus shelter that could double a space for special events on Logan and Breckenridge streets. On Logan, from Breckenridge southward, interventions include the bus shelter, a space for seating and sculptural installations, a playground, and then bioswales. Brightly-colored, whimsical murals should be painted on the long wall. The vegetation and tree groupings would increase in intensity farther south on Logan Street from the Breckenridge intersection across from the rows of shotgun-style homes.
On Breckenridge, from Logan eastwards, the streetscape would include the bus shelter, then a bike repair station, and a green-roofed arcade that could house additional artwork, and, during festivals, farmers market tents and craft vendors. These spaces could be used any day of the week for small businesses—an affordable, temporary, start up space, that activates the street, and energizes this corner between the Highlands and Old Louisville, in Smoketown.