The observation pier is a key element of the Waterfront Park Phase IV design. | Courtesy of Waterfront Development Corp.

Waterfront Park Phase IV is slowly inching closer to reality.

The Waterfront Development Corp., which oversees Waterfront Park, will likely kick off a $45 million fundraising campaign this spring, Deborah Bilitski, WDC’s vice president and deputy director, revealed to those attending a Women In Commercial Real Estate luncheon Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s going to take a lot of money to build this” 22-acre park expansion, Bilitski said, joking that raising the funds will be a “piece of cake” compared to raising the initial funding for Waterfront Park in the 1990s. The public park today is 85 acres, generates an estimated $40 million in economic activity and hosts about 150 events annually; it also cost more than double the budget for Phase IV.

The expansion has been in the discussion, planning and design phase for years, but there still is no designated timeline for when construction of Phase IV, which would extend from 10th to 15th streets along the riverfront, will begin or end.

Deborah Bilitski

“Money will dictate that,” Bilitski said.

WDC is planning pop-ups or other events to get people down to the site of Phase IV before construction starts to give them an idea of what the future holds and raise money toward the expansion.

“We want a space where we can bring people,” Bilitski said

When work does get underway, it will start with either the observation pier or experiential learning area.

Bilitski noted that the pier will “provide the most stunning view of downtown Louisville we have.”

The WDC is working with the Kentucky Science Center and children in the Russell and Portland neighborhoods on the design of the experiential learning area, she said. The area will provide STREAM experiences — science, technology, recreation, arts and math.

Different from other portions of Waterfront Park, the 22 acres included in Phase IV have a significant history tied to the founding and the economic growth of Louisville as most trade was conducted along the river. WDC plans to play on that history with signage and historical references at Fort-On-Shore Plaza at 12th and Rowan streets.

“Think riverboat. Think industrial hands-on type things. We are trying to bring in some authentic artifacts,” she said.

Other aspects of Waterfront Park Phase IV include room for restaurant and retail operations, a large public gathering area with sculptural and interactive water features called Confluence Plaza and the brightening of spaces called Midway Connectors with well-lit walking and biking paths under the Interstate 64 overpass.

A rendering of how a Midway Connector could look | Courtesy of Waterfront Development Corp.

“While they may not look the prettiest, they are highly utilized by event producers,” Bilitski said of space under the overpass.

For instance, food and drink vendors at Forecastle music festival setup under the Interstate 64 overpass that cuts through Great Lawn and attendees often use it for shade from the hot July sun.

A few acres of land dedicated for Waterfront Park Phase IV is currently occupied by Metropolitan Sewer District construction. MSD is building a 13,800-foot-long, 37-million-gallon tunnel basin that will hold overflow from the sewer system.

Work started in April 2017 and is expected to wrap up by spring 2020 when MSD will hand over nearly all the acreage to WDC. The district will maintain a portion of the property for a pump station and place to monitor and maintain the basin.

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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]