The plan would turn the Interstate-65 overpass from a forbidding barrier to inviting gateway. (Click images to see full size.)

Here’s next week’s news today.

When the Louisville Downtown Development Corp. has its big “Second Annual State of the Downtown: Public Perceptions and Economic Realities” powwow next Tuesday night, they will have two big announcements, sources say.

The first is a new Downtown Commercial Loan Fund, new financing for companies opening downtown. (More as we know more about this.)

The second is this story: A very cool $13 million Nucleus-NuLu Connectivity Project linking the University of Louisville’s fast-rising, 180,000-square-foot Nucleus Innovation Park research building at Market and Floyd streets to the NuLu retail, restaurant, business and arts district two blocks east.

A project no one wants to talk about in detail until next week.

LDDC Executive Director Alan DeLisle didn’t return our calls … again.

Ah, but we have the LDDC study that laid the foundation for the project. And we know the Kentucky General Assembly has voted to include funding in the state budget. So, sources say all systems are go.

Essentially, the project will upgrade streetscapes five blocks from Nucleus at Floyd Street east along Market Street to the Home of the Innocents. The goal is to physically blend the not terribly inviting dead spaces along Market  into the resurgent NuLu, which runs from Hancock to Wenzel streets

Brick paths added to concrete sidewalks. Street seating and better lighting. Plantings. In essence, streatscape upgrades similar to what’s in front of KFC Yum! Arena and Actors’ Theatre at Second and Main streets.

The visible feature of the plan may be the redevelopment of the I-65 overpass that runs between Jackson and Hancock streets, the border between downtown and NuLu – a bare and forbidding psychological barrier that will be reconfigured into a gateway to NuLu.

The Nucleus-NuLu Connectivity Project will add more permeable surfaces and storm water management features in NuLu, hence the MSD participation.

NuLu developer/businessman Gill Holland, speaking as president of the East Market Business Associaton, deferred to LDDC officials for details. But Holland described the Nucleus-NuLu Connectivity project as being about tempting prospective Nucleus tenants with a more inviting locale than other research parks, which tend to be isolated and sterile.

“Even where I’m from in North Carolina, the Research Triangle Park is in the suburbs, cut off from everything else,” Holland.

A Nucleus complex better connected to downtown on west and NuLu on the east could be a major factor for prospective tenants weighing the attributes of business parks in various states, he said.

Mark Hebert, U of L director media relations, didn’t disagree with Hollland’s assessment, saying the goal is to optimize the allure of the budding business park where the first building is scheduled to be finished in the summer of 2013.

(Then entire Nucleus medical rearch/life sciences complex campus was supposed to be a 30-square block area that would become a medical research plaza with a million square feet in multiple buildings. U of L President Dr. James Ramsey has never not said that’s still the plan, as far as we can see.)

From the orginial East Downtown Connectivity study:

East Downtown is at the tipping point for an urban renaissance.

Recent and planned investment will provide numerous nodes of activity and act as anchors for further redevelopment efforts.

The Nucleus development and the ever-expanding Medical Center will provide a strong employment anchor and economic boost to the area.

The grass-roots efforts on East Market Street have revitalized this historic corridor into a vibrant arts and entertainment district.

Liberty Green is being transformed into a mixed-income neighborhood and will provide needed housing close to the various employment centers.

All of these assets are in close proximity to the Central Business District and other premier urban attractions such as Slugger Field and the Waterfront Park.

Running through the middle of this diverse urban environment is I-65, which will be widened and improved as part of the Bridges Project. Determining how to leverage this massive public investment to have a positive impact for East Downtown is critical to creating the connections that are necessary for this area to be successful.

To maximize these existing and planned investments, strong linkages need to be formed. The East Downtown Connectivity Study identifies the public and private investments necessary to create a cohesive, walkable network of mixed-use neighborhoods and districts that offer a variety of employment, housing, retail and entertainment opportunities.

Working together with the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation and a steering committee comprised of East Downtown stakeholders, MSI Design and CARMAN developed a series of planning concepts to enhance the interconnectivity and encourage additional investment within East Downtown.

The plan objectives and the resulting concepts that are outlined in the East Downtown Connectivity Study include:

• Integrating open space and sustainability throughout East Downtown by creating green streets, pocket parks, greenway connections, and natural stormwater infiltration zones.

• Identifying economic development opportunities to build upon recent and planned investment.

• Enhancing gateways and connections to create a cohesive network of walkable neighborhoods and districts

 • Improving streetscapes (with a focus on Floyd, Preston, Hancock, Jefferson and Market streets) to enhance connections and encourage additional economic development.

 

Terry Boyd has seven years experience as a business/finance journalist, and eight years a military reporter with European Stars and Stripes. As a banking and finance reporter at Business First, Boyd dealt directly with the most influential executives and financiers in Louisville.


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