The rounded aluminum Airstream trailers of the past are in vogue again.

Airstream trailers were invented in the 1920s, according to the company’s website, and hit their peak in the 1960s. In the last several years, however, the trailers have once again become a hot commodity.

Two Louisvillians are looking to make that trend into a business, an Airstream hotel and event space called Progress Park.

“There are Airstream addict clubs and Facebook pages,” said Nick McDowell, adding that The B-52’s singer Kate Pierson runs an Airstream hotel out West.

About a year ago, McDowell and longtime friend Mike Pifer started buying and refurbishing Airstream trailers for personal use. Pifer took one, an Airstream Bambi named Dottie, on a 4,000-mile drive out West and back with his wife and two young children. “It was tight, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Most of the time though, the five trailers that McDowell and Pifer own — two of which are refurbished — sit on a roughly 12-acre wooded property they bought together back in early 2016. With a playground and small lake, the property has become a retreat for the two families and their friends where they can swim, kayak and generally have fun, and the Airstream trailers offer a place to camp for the night.

Earlier this week, McDowell and Pifer filed paperwork with the city asking that the land, located on Progress Boulevard off the Buechel Bypass, be rezoned to allow the pair to host events and rent stays in the Airstream trailers. Rentals rates for one Airstream trailer, which can sleep four to six people, will start in the range of $150 a night, the pair told Insider.

“This is different. It’s very unique,” said Pifer, owner of P2 Home Improvement. “There is a lot of pride for us to be doing this in this neighborhood.”

The business plan is ever-evolving, said McDowell, who owns the landscaping company Lawn Dynamics. But he sees Progress Park as being a venue for outdoor weddings and receptions, family events and fundraisers during which people would stay overnight or for a weekend.

The trailers include small kitchens, a toilet and multi-purpose space where people can sit in the daytime and sleep in the nighttime. In addition to the half bathrooms in the trailers, Progress Park also offers a building with a full bathroom.

Ideally, the pair would like to renovate the other three trailers they own and then start adding onto that to increase the capacity of the Airstream hotel.

“In our minds, it’s far from where we want it to be,” Pifer said, noting that they always have a next task they want to accomplish with the property.

They tend to buy the trailers online from people who get in over their heads with renovations, Pifer said. The trailers cost about $25,000 each to renovate.

“You don’t realize how much it really takes to fix one of these up,” he said. “It is a whole different style of remodel and skills.”

The pair aren’t in a rush to open Progress Park should the rezoning be approved and will take their time to make sure everything is ready, they told Insider. The rezoning process alone is expected to take about six months.

People should keep an eye on the budding business’s Facebook page to watch Progress Park’s progress and for a heads up once they start renting the Airstream trailers and property.

Although it took a lot of hard work to get the property to where it is today and there’s more to be done, McDowell and Pifer said they don’t mind putting in the effort.

“It’s a labor of love,” Pifer said.

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]