A conceptual master plan has been created for Phase IV of Waterfront Park, which will expand Waterfront Park west of 10th Street to provide a continuation of open space along the river and the prospect for new experiences and activities along the river. The RiverWalk from the downtown wharf to and alongside Phase IV will be improved to provide a vital pedestrian/bicycle east-west connection and a continuum of the Waterfront Park experience. The Phase IV site is rich in history and opportunity, which is reflected in the plan.
“The site is 22 acres located north of the floodwall. River Road would be extended to what is now Rowan Street as part of the plan…”
The site is 22 acres located north of the floodwall. River Road would be extended to what is now Rowan Street as part of the plan, which will include passive and active park space and improved connections to adjacent streetscapes. A committee made up of Waterfront officials, Metro Council representatives, and community leaders worked with landscape architecture and planning firm MKSK to develop the plan.
Building upon the success of Louisville’s Waterfront Park (Phases 1-3), Phase IV is intended to be the westward expansion of open space along the downtown banks of the Ohio River. The 22 acre site serves as a continuation of community open space along the Ohio River corridor, connecting the downtown core with the Portland Neighborhood and West Louisville.
Just as the original 1991 Waterfront Master Plan did for the park’s first 3 phases, this master plan identifies key park rules of form and overall development structure to allow both an understanding of the park as a total framework and of individual spaces within that framework. Understanding the park as a series of spaces or rooms, this master plan provides detailed recommendations for the enhancement and completion of each space in achieving both quantity and quality goals for the park.
“Steel sculpted in this area can be traced to locations across the globe, including library stacks in the Vatican, large portions of the historic French Quarter façades, steps within the St. Louis Arch, and portions of the Eiffel Tower.”
The site for the park is layered with a rich history dating back to the founding of Louisville in the early 1800’s. The design team worked closely with the Louisville community to discover and understand the storied past of the site. Below is a summary of the historical significance:
- Fort-on-Shore – Built in 1778, this settlement was located at the intersection of 12th and Rowan Streets. It is considered the first on-shore settlement along the Ohio River bank within the area that now considered downtown Louisville.
- Louisville and Portland Canal – This 2-mile long canal was constructed originally in the 1830’s and was modernized in the early 1960’s. At the time it was constructed, the canal project employed nearly 10% of the population of Louisville, and took 5 years to complete.
- Ornamental Steel Foundries – Throughout the 1800’s and early 1900’s, the site and surrounding areas were home to several steel foundries that formed the ornamental steel shipped down the Ohio River from cities in the northeast. Steel sculpted in this area can be traced to locations across the globe, including library stacks in the Vatican, large portions of the historic French Quarter façades, steps within the St. Louis Arch, and portions of the Eiffel Tower.
- Tobacco Breaks – The core of Main Street between 10th and 14th Streets was historically lined with tobacco warehouses during the 1930’s. At the height of production, this area of Louisville was responsible for the production of nearly 1 billion cigarettes.
- Flooding – Louisville’s relationship with the Ohio River has been one of both progress and retrogress. Although Louisville has seen periodic flooding throughout the years, the floods of 1937 forever changed the course of development within the river corridor. After 18 inches of rain in 16 days, the 1937 Flood resulted in the development and construction of the levee and floodwall system (1950) that currently meanders along the banks of the river corridor through downtown Louisville and along the edges of the Waterfront Park Phase IV study area.
The study area for the project site is principally composed of three diverse landscapes or biomes: Urban, Park, and River. Each of these landscapes are distinct and offer their unique set of site conditions ranging from impervious parking lots to overgrown vegetated hillsides. These three landscapes are currently separated visually from one another, supporting individuality and solitude between City, River, and Park. This existing solitude conflicts with key recommendations of encouraging connectivity between the City, People, and the River. Dissolving the edges and tension between the City, River, and Park increases the physical and perceived connectivity between these biomes. The Master Plan recommended the following strategies for improved connectivity:
- Linking Surface Roads
- Maintaining continuous pedestrian and bicycle paths
- Incorporate the Floodwall into the park experience
- Utilize the Interstate support structure as an amenity
- Develop the riverbank as a resilient landscape space
The design team explored the seam/overlap between these biomes, and applied the term Ecotone to define these transitions. In ecological terms, an ecotone is defined as a transition area between two biomes, where two communities meet and integrate. An ecotone may appear as a gradual blending of two communities across a broad area, or it may manifest itself as a shared boundary line.
“The Phase IV Master Plan report serves as a roadmap to development of this park extension, which will take place over a period of many years.”
Phase IV of Waterfront Park includes the following spaces and gardens:
- Observation Pier
- Railyard Plaza
- Experiential Learning Area
- Confluence Plaza
- Fort-On-Shore Plaza
- Foundry Commons
- Midway Connector
The Phase IV Master Plan report serves as a roadmap to development of this park extension, which will take place over a period of many years. The next step in the process, which is underway, is to flesh out the details of the report into a conceptual master plan, which can then be used for fundraising.
The images below are conceptual and represent the types of activities and features that will be included in the final design.