Jennifer Chappell has been thinking a lot about the phrase “the wrong side of the tracks.” People typically use that as a euphemism for a place different or worse off than their own, but for her Louisville neighborhood, the phrase takes on a physical manifestation.
She is referring to the point where Goss Avenue crosses the railroad tracks. This highly trafficked intersection is unique because it serves as the meeting point of three distinct neighborhoods: Shelby Park, Schnitzelburg and German-Paristown. Chappell has fittingly dubbed this intersection Three Points and is now leading a civic project that hopes to beautify the gateway and bring together the neighborhoods.
The Three Points Beautification Project is designed to increase the functionality and aesthetics of the area by replacing cracked sidewalks, adding benches and trashcans, planting new greenery, and highlighting a sense of community through a representative mural and maps. As of now, the intersection feels like a tiny industrial anomaly surrounded by a sea of shotgun homes and bungalows.
Abell Elevator happily gave the project permission to beautify the side of their building, an adjoining wall and a nearby shed. Henry Cunningham and Chris Chappell (no relation to Jennifer) have been chosen as the artists who will paint the mural. Belknap resident Chris Chappell’s previous work includes the murals on Hilltop Tavern in Clifton and the Artist and Craftsman Supply in German-Paristown. Cunningham hails from the Highlands, though he is currently attending St. John’s University in Queens, New York. He specializes in lettering and graffiti-inspired designs.
They plan to have the mural done by the end of September. Other improvements already have begun, including preparation for new tree plantings and the removal of one portion of a chain-link fence, which will make it easier for pedestrians to get from Germantown to the Sav-a-Lot.
If nothing else, the new art will make for a more pleasant wait for the people stuck on the Shelby Park side of Goss while waiting for a train to pass. However, Chappell sees it as much more than that.
“It seems to me like there’s been a resurgence of community. People are all about branding neighborhoods,” she says. “What we want is to bring together these different communities.”
German-Paristown and Schnitzelburg should find that to be a relatively simple task to do amongst themselves. Both neighborhoods fall under the general moniker of Germantown, hold similar reputations within the city and have comparable demographics (predominantly white, trending toward younger and educated). The bigger cultural challenge lies with integrating in Shelby Park, a predominantly black, low-income neighborhood that is often identified as an area in need of revitalization and development.
Each of the Three Points’ neighborhoods’ associations—the German-Paristown Neighborhood Association, the Shelby Park Neighborhood Association and the Schnitzelburg Area Community Council — has endorsed the project and is contributing monetarily. Similarly, Metro Councilmen David W. Tandy and Jim King, whose districts (4 and 10, respectively) also meet at Three Points, also have promised neighborhood development grant money for the project.
Collectively, that money will pay for the mural artists, landscaping and paint. For the additional money needed, Chappell is turning to Neighbor.ly, a Kickstarter-like crowd-funding website that can only be used by vetted, civic-minded organizations and projects. As of this writing, the Three Points Beautification Project has raised $1,246 toward its $4,000 goal. She plans to close the fundraising around the middle of September.
Donations started rolling in slowly, but according to Chappell they have begun to pickup as nearby residents start hearing about the project. “Everyone has been really supportive of the project,” she says. The only criticism she can recall is someone suggesting she was trying to make her neighborhood “the new NuLu.”
“I don’t want to be the new anything,” insists Chappell. “What’s wrong with getting new things?”
Chappell and supporters have been meeting with nearby local businesses to ask for support. One that should be interested in the development of the intersection is Underhill Associates, the folks converting the Booker Building on Goss Avenue into a 183-unit apartment complex called the Germantown Mill Lofts.
Chip Rogalinski, the president of the Shelby Park Neighborhood Association, says he believes the beautification project will bring more attention to other projects and events within the neighborhoods..
“Three Points is a good way to draw people into the things we’re all doing,” says Rogalinski. “There’s a lot of energy surrounding this.”
The Three Points Beautification Project isn’t the only cross-neighborhood collaboration underway. The Germantown/Shelby Park Rail Corridor Area Plan, which you can read about on the University of Louisville’s website, would affect each Three Points neighborhood and others. On a smaller scale, The Goss Avenue Beautification Project, which you can read about on the SACC blog, would affect German-Paristown and Schnitzelburg since the road is the border between the two.