Early Saturday morning, volunteers descended upon the 800 block of East Market Street between Shelby and Campbell streets for a Tactical Urban Streetscape Intervention sponsored by the University of Louisville’s Urban Design Studio, in collaboration with Vision Louisville, Louisville Downtown Development Corporation and The Street Plans Collaborative.
For nearly 12 hours, the block was reconfigured to hold one lane of car traffic while allowing for bikes and pedestrians to explore the temporary green space established along the remaining two-thirds of the street.
Motorists who wished to stop by and explore the block had the opportunity to partake of the reverse angle parking – designed to allow for clearer views of bicyclists and pedestrians by prompting the driver to park in reverse – in front of shops and restaurants such as WHY Lou Two: Electric Nulu and Please & Thank You.
The project, a month in the making, was led by Patrick Piuma of the Urban Design Studio and Mike Lydon of the Street Plans Collaborative. As Piuma explained to Insider Louisville, the temporary streetscape was based on future plans for redevelopment along the 800 block of East Market, using “quick, temporary interventions” to demonstrate how the block would appear with more green space down the center of the street.
“This is just kind of the first one,” Piuma said when asked if future streetscape interventions were coming to the city. “We hope that we can show people how to do this, and then have them take it to places that could actually use more help.”
He continued, stating that areas such as the West End and the South End would have greater results through streetscape intervention by taking on abandoned buildings, lots and alleyways, revitalizing what would otherwise be left to further deteriorate.
It should be noted that East Market Street was planned to be a green space decades ago as part of Olmstead Park.
“It was designed by Olmstead to have a park [where East Market Street lies], but it was never implemented,” Piuma said, noting later the ease of conducting an intervention based on those plans while also saying that such interventions conducted elsewhere would need community input on what needs the space in question has to fulfill.
At around 8 a.m., volunteers began closing off the 800 block of East Market in order to construct the green space, featuring a row of tall trees going down the center of the street from Shelby to the middle of the block past Mayan Café.
The reverse angle parking spaces were drawn using temporary reflective tape, while smaller plants, hay bales, traffic cones, planters and wood pallets were placed along the north side of the street to form spaces for passersby and shoppers to rest.
One of the reverse angle spaces was turned into a parking space for bicycles with the installation of a bike rack, while colored chalk was utilized in the creation of a winding path through the trees enhanced with street art.
Finally, a temporary lemonade stand was placed in front of WHY Lou Two, with proceeds going to the Home of the Innocents. The block was then opened to one lane of traffic after a temporary detour around the proceedings.
Along the block and further west, several events were scheduled for the day, beginning with a Tactical Urbanism salon led by Lydon inside The Green Building from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
At Taco Punk, several pigs were prepared for the pig roast later in the evening, while WHY Louisville celebrated its eighth anniversary by raising Colonel Harlan Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame from the dead to lead a parade of Kentucky Colonels – including WHY Louisville and WHY Lou Two owner Will Russell – and other assorted characters down to Garage Bar upon a remote-controlled Hoveround.
Finally, Gifthorse’s NuLu location held a tactical urbanism artist market in the boutique’s courtyard, featuring jewelry, jars and artwork from Daisy Lee Designs, Fourth Wall Murals among other local artists.
Regarding the future of NuLu, and especially East Market Street, the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation, MSI Design and CARMAN published a study in 2011 that would provide for the reintegration of the 800 block’s median park – named Kenton Place – with the rest of Market Street.
The park had been there once before, but was soon replaced with streetcar rails, and later automotive access with head-in parking. The revitalized block would aid in traffic calming, improving upon the safety of pedestrians overall, in particular young pedestrians from Lincoln Elementary and the Home of the Innocents.
Social, courtyard and gallery spaces are also included in this part of the plan, along with stormwater management, a reduction of traffic lanes from four to three eastbound lanes, wider sidewalks, improved tree placement et al, with plan for Kenton Place to serve as the centerpiece of East Market Street.