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NuLu’s $13 million streetscape development plans revealed

by Andrew Dewson

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Renderings of NuLu streetscape by Carman Landscape Architects

Seems like new development projects are constantly cropping up in NuLu, though the biggest change is potentially still to come: $13 million worth of “streetscaping,” funded by the state of Kentucky and the Metropolitan Sewer District. (Who knew the sewage department was so flush?)

Last night, residents, business owners and other interested parties gathered in the Nucleus building on East Market to get a glimpse of development plans, presented by landscape architectural consultants Carman. The planned investment covers about 11 blocks, stretching from Brook Street to Baxter Avenue, and includes bike lanes, “social hubs,” crazy paving, less parking and trees. Lots of trees.

The presentation was led by the eponymous John Carman, with at least 60 people in attendance, including NuLu guru Gill Holland and Joe Ley, whose antique business has occupied the same spot on East Market for 38 years. 

Carman has been working on the streetscape plans since last fall, although the project itself is about three years in the making. “We have a lot of great ideas for this development,” said Carman, “enhancing the existing personality of the neighborhood… the idea is to create not just the coolest neighborhood in the city, but in the country.”

So what are the plans? Well, the main thrust of the development plan is to encourage a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly environment. There are six key points:

• Wider sidewalks and new medians • Creation of a leisure bike path

• Development of distinctive sidewalk paving

•Creation of “social hubs”

• Environmental sustainability

• Activation of the alleys

Three lanes

Rendering shows widened sidewalks, tree-filled medians and lane reduction on East Market.

Carman proposes that certain sections of East Market are reduced to three driving lanes from the current four (one heading west, two heading east). The most significant visible change proposed is a result of the lane changes. The plan calls for two tree-filled medians, one at the 800 block of East Market and another opposite the Nucleus building on the 300 block. 

According to Carman, wider sidewalks will ease traffic congestion, a somewhat counter-intuitive conclusion if traffic is reduced from four lanes to three. The point is that pedestrians will be able to cross the road faster, meaning less time spent at traffic signals waiting for people to cross. 

As for trees, Carman and his team propose planting a large number along East Market, particularly in the run-up to the new overpass. Tree growth and wellbeing will be supported by pervious concrete sidewalks.

Activating the alleys (the brilliantly, and uniquely named Billy Goat Strut to the south and Nanny Goat Strut to the north) is another key part of the redevelopment. The plans include brick paving to highlight the location of the alleys plus suspended cable lighting, all of which should not affect the current daily use of the alleys. As of now there are no plans to try to attract residents, or goats, back into the alleys.

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Proposed “social hub” and bike parking in front of Please & Thank You

The “social hubs” are perhaps the most interesting part of the plans. Developed on the West Coast (they do sound very “Portlandia”), they are essentially miniature parks, no larger than a couple of SUV’s parked back to back. Each will have its own unique arrangement of seating, walls, shade or art. If the sidewalks are widened to accommodate these social hubs, Carman’s team also expects some growth in European-style sidewalk café culture. 

Meeting attendees expressed some concern about parking – the plans result in a net loss of 10-12 parking spaces. No matter how bike-friendly the end result is, NuLu needs parking to thrive. Carman said the he hopes the parking concerns will be addressed through some new parking at the 900 and 1000 blocks of East Market and an expansion of the lots at the East Market Marriott Hotel and at the Nucleus building.

There is still a lot of work to do before the plans come to fruition. Despite three years of work already in the bank, construction is not slated to begin until May 2015, with an expected completion date of December 2016. So even if the plans are accepted in their current form, residents, business owners and commuters still have 20 months of work to look forward to.

The presentation is available in full at www.carmansite.com/nulu, and comments and suggestions can be made through the website.

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