Next Louisville: What the Urban Core Wants

by Stephanie Crosby

As we continue our look at “The Next Louisville” – issues facing the next mayor and administration – we’ve surveyed what residents in different parts of the community are looking for in a new leader. Today, we look at Louisville’s urban core.

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The urban core of Louisville is sometime called the ‘urban services district’, the ‘old city of Louisville’, or ‘downtown’, but it’s also the area that has been known as Louisville the longest. This is where Louisville was born.

“Louisville’s an old city. There are parts of our city that are more ancient than other parts,” says Martina Kunnecke, a resident of the Clifton neighborhood.

She also the president of a group called Neighborhood Planning and Preservation. In both roles, she wants to see a mayor who is committed to preserving that rich history.

“I would say rehabilitation of our housing stock, more emphasis on preserving houses rather than tearing them down, providing housing in a green way,” says Kunnecke, “and of course, the greenest way is just to preserve what’s already there.”

But parts of the urban core are seeing a lot of new development. It’s something many residents are embracing.

Lisa Dettlinger is a co-chair of the Irish Hill Neighborhood Association. She says for years the group wanted to upgrade part of the neighborhood, and they’re looking for a mayor to support that vision.

“Creative ideas. A mayor who will look outside the box and see what’s been done in other cities in areas like that,” says Dettlinger. “Not just the same suburban type strip mall situation.”

And that brings us to another key to the urban core of Louisville: while many residents are embracing the hotspots of new development, there are some concerns about holding onto those neighborhood identities.

Cindy Brown Kinloch is the executive director of the Phoenix Hill Neighborhood Association. She says although a lot of the neighborhood has become run-down and needs renovation, the association wants to maintain the traits that make the area unique, like diversity.

“There’s a lot of development going on in our neighborhood with Liberty Green and new condos, and so we’re wanting the traditional long-term neighbors to be able to stay in the neighborhood as well as to have new people come in,” says Brown Kinloch.

So the push and pull between the desire for new development and the desire to maintain old identities is greatly in flux here. Perhaps the best case-in-point is the east Market Street area, what’s becoming known as NuLu.

Just a couple blocks from the trendy Mayan Café – where you can indulge in the ceviche of the day – and then visit a nearby art gallery… is the Refuge in Kentucky Church, an older building with musty carpets but welcoming smiles.

Raymond Keith is the pastor there. He says his only concern with the neighborhood updates is that long-time residents won’t feel welcome anymore.

“We have a lot of people that are moving in who have a lot of money, who are buying lofts and things in this area, so that the folk who are in this area need to be able to enjoy the area they have always lived in,” says Keith.

What they need – he says – is better trolley service, more police presence, and that ever-present request from the urban core: a supermarket.

“So that we don’t push the folk who have made it attractive to come here, they’re not able to live here,” he says. “That would be a shame.”

Keith says he isn’t opposed to new development, but is looking for a mayor who will balance the high-end eateries and boutiques with the basic needs of those living in the urban core.