Established in 1986, the Waterfront Development Corporation (WDC) plans, coordinates and implements strategies to revitalize Louisville’s Waterfront. WDC was created by an interlocal agreement between Jefferson County, the City of Louisville, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky to oversee redevelopment of Louisville’s waterfront from a blighted and underutilized area into a vibrant, active area. The result is Waterfront Park, which has improved the quality of life of Louisville residents and has also been a catalyst for business and residential redevelopment in the Waterfront District and connecting areas of downtown Louisville.
WDC relies heavily on private and public donations to fund the construction of Waterfront Park. Government funding supports day-to-day operations and park maintenance, and lease and event income helps defray some expenses.
Before Waterfront Park
Before the creation of WDC in 1986, Louisville’s downtown waterfront area, from Ohio River south to Main Street and between the Clark Memorial and Kennedy Bridges, was filled with abandoned or underutilized industrial land and buildings. The waterfront area was one of the most unattractive parts of the city.
In 1991, the Louisville Waterfront Master Plan was adopted by city ordinance, and this document has guided the design and development of Waterfront Park and the surrounding Waterfront neighborhood.
The Waterfront District that was once a heavy industrial wasteland cut off from the city now boasts more than 6000 employees, major residential developments, and the trickle down effect in surrounding areas of restaurants, entertainment venues, galleries, support retail, and an abundance of new residential and office space.
Waterfront Park attracts more than 2 million visitors every year for festivals, concerts, charity walks, picnics, weddings, and every day usage — visitors to the Big Four® Bridge, walkers, joggers, folks playing frisbee or touch football, families enjoying the playgrounds, and those who come just to relax and enjoy the river.
The park has garnered international acclaim, receiving several national design and environmental awards, and media coverage in newspapers and magazines worldwide. One recent accolade that is quite a feather in the cap for our community is the ULI’s designation in 2006 of Waterfront Park as one of the Top Ten Urban Parks in the nation. Waterfront Park has won a number of awards, and in 2006 was named one of the Top Ten Urban Parks in the nation by the Urban Land Institute.