Meet John Brasch. You’ve probably seen his name construction fences around the city as “Brasch Constructors,” one of the city’s major construction companies. But Brasch is also the president of the Louisville Downtown Residents Association (LDRA). And after living Downtown for the past four years, he says he is starting to see a real neighborhood emerge.
“Downtown differs from other neighborhoods,” Brasch told Broken Sidewalk. “We don’t have a bunch of houses together on a street. We’re in separate buildings.” Without front porches, large apartment buildings can be an intimidating barrier to meeting new people that live nearby. “I’m not going to go over to a building two blocks away, knock on the building, and say, ‘Hi, I’m John Brasch. I want to meet you.’ It’s not gonna happen,” Brasch said. Instead, the LDRA serves as a meeting ground for downtown residents to connect with their fellow urbanites.
The association was brought back to life earlier this year thanks to the efforts of the Louisville Downtown Partnership (LDP), which tapped into Brasch’s name recognition to draw interested residents into the fold. “They called me up and told me they wanted to reenact the Downtown Residents Association and were going to invite a bunch of people to a party—kind of a meet and greet—to talk about the association,” Brasch said. “They asked if they could put me on the invitation as a host. I said absolutely.” Brasch was an active member of the Cherokee Triangle Association years ago when he lived out in the ‘burbs, and said he believes in the community fostered by neighborhood groups.
“We put together a meeting and took a vote and they said, ‘You’re it. You’re the president.'” Brasch quipped. Other board members elected this year include Brett Corbin, Marty Merkel, Amador Delatorre III, Ryan Bratcher, Phil Scherer III, and Jevon Dade.
“We started meeting—we have monthly board meetings,” Brasch continued. “We’re planning on social events quarterly. We’ve established some committees. One of the things that is important to us is to not just have social events and sit around and eat and drink.” He said events could range from a day at the races, to a cocktail hour, a dinner on the Belle of Louisville, to buying a block of tickets to a play at Actors Theater.
“We want people to feel like they live in a real neighborhood,” Brasch said. “Not just in a central business district.”
“I’ve met a lot of interesting people at our social events so far—a lot of people that are in other buildings that I wouldn’t have met if we had never gone out and tried to do these things,” he added. “By having people together with nametags and what building they live in, it’s camaraderie.”
Members of the LDRA live in a wide variety of Downtown buildings including The Henry Clay, Waterfront Park Place, the Harbison-Gathright Building, Whiskey Row Lofts, Preston Pointe, the Lofts of Broadway, and Bycks Lofts, among others.
The LDP estimates that there are now over 5,000 Downtown residents, a number that will quickly grow as a barrage of residential projects are being built in the city’s core. “It is critical that this important group of Downtown stakeholders have an active association that represents their interests, fosters community, and promotes positive engagement with the varied arts, business, and entertainment interests in our rapidly growing city,” LDA director Rebecca Matheny said in a statement this past March.
We couldn’t agree more. Downtown is the core of the Louisville community, and we often describe it as a place where people from the entire region come together. Think about the city’s big events—Thunder Over Louisville, outdoor concerts and festivals, the Fourth of July. These tend to take place in and around Downtown Louisville. Added to that, Downtown is also home to the city’s convention businesses, including the convention center itself, hotels, and entertainment that is fed by a constant stream of tourists moving through the city.
So it’s understandable that finding an identity and a sense of community for the people who actually live there every day can be challenging. Downtown is at once a single neighborhood and at the same time the locus of all the neighborhoods in the Louisville region.
Brasch, like most downtown residents, says it’s worth it to look for community in a neighborhood that sees an influx of nearly 70,000 workers each morning and an exodus equally as large in the afternoon. And the LDRA is there to help facilitate that sense of belonging.
As the ranks of Downtown residents grow in coming years, the neighborhood will only become more exciting, Brash said. He’s already seen downtown come alive from a sleepy collection of abandoned buildings to an increasingly bustling area with new activity, restaurants, and bars.
“Here’s what happens in life: We couldn’t get anybody to do any of that stuff for years, and then a couple people tried it. And they had some success and other people tried it,” Brasch said. “It’s called momentum. Downtown has momentum right now.”
“Every weekend from May through October there’s an event down here on the river,” he said. “It’s mindboggling. If you just live in the suburbs, you can come down here—but we see it. We live it.”
Membership in the Louisville Downtown Residents Association is open to any Downtown resident, whether they rent or own their property. Brasch said the LDRA has been going building by building to introduce themselves and invite new members to the association.
For more information about the association, contact the Louisville Downtown Partnership at 502-584-6000 or send an email.
[Top image: Downtown Louisville along the Ohio River by Shannon Tompkins / Flickr.]