Phases I, II and III

Waterfront Park plan view illustrationWaterfront Park’s first three phases total 85 acres. Phase III was completed in February 2013 with the opening of the Big Four Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge, which enjoyed more than a million visits in its first year of operation.

Phase I plan view

Phase I includes the Big Four Lawn, Festival Plaza, original playground, and Water Feature.

Phase I was completed in 1999 and contains broad, open spaces appropriate for large events, as well as smaller spaces intended for family gatherings or enjoying the Ohio River in a secluded setting. The centerpiece of Phase I is the Great Lawn, the park’s most distinctive open space. Touching the Ohio and rising gradually over its 14 acres, it ends at Witherspoon Street, connecting the river to the city. Phase I is where the largest waterfront events take place, including Thunder Over Louisville in April and the Fifth Third Waterfront Independence Festival on July 3rd and 4th.

phase II

Phase II, the eastern end of the park, includes the Adventure Playground and Brown-Forman Amphitheater.

Directly up River Road from Phase I, Phase II has a distinctly different take on what a waterfront park can be. Phase II is a ribbon of medium to small spaces, suitable for picnics, weddings, parties, and events of moderate size. In contrast to Phase I, Phase II is a place where it is possible to feel nature without a reminder that the city is right over your shoulder. Home to the Adventure Playground, Phase II is one of the busiest areas of the park during summer months.

Phase III connects the first two phases and completes the original vision laid out in the Waterfront Master Plan. It includes the Promenade along the river, the Swing Garden, walking paths, picnic areas, parking and restrooms, and the Lincoln Memorial, which commemorates Abraham Lincoln’s lifelong Kentucky connections.

phase III

Phase III, which was the park’s most anticipated phase, includes the Big Four® Bridge, Lincoln Memorial, and the Swing Garden.

Phase III’s most anticipated feature, the Big Four® Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge, serves as a connection between Louisville to Southern Indiana, which opened its ramp in May 2014.

A conceptual master plan has been completed for Phase IV of the park, a westward expansion that will add 22 acres between 9th and 13th streets, connected to the current site by the RiverWalk and an extension of River Road/Rowan Street. Phase IV, which has been formally adopted by the Louisville Metro Council, will provide a range of public and open spaces that embrace a unique setting along the river corridor, promote health and wellness through a unique Exerscape feature, and offer an ecological resource and location for civic interaction.

The Phase IV Master Plan celebrates the heritage of Louisville and the unique history of the site, which was the location of Louisville’s first frontier fortress (Fort on Shore) and of iron foundries that produced cast iron that was shipped worldwide, including some that was used in the Vatican. Visit the Phase IV page for more information about the conceptual master plan. Read more about the unique history of the Phase IV site in a pdf document put together by local historian Rick Bell.

Waterfront Park Phase IV conceptual plan

Waterfront Park Phase IV conceptual plan.

To quote from the original Waterfront Master plan: “In broad philosophic strokes, the Master Plan seeks to pull into the 21st century the cultural waterfront heritage of the 18th and 19th centuries, to interpret and restore the ecology of the river as it was before western civilization, and to extend downtown Louisville to the river–and conversely, magnify the presence of the river and extend the river into downtown. In so doing the Waterfront can be come a vessel for public activities, with the natural systems of the Ohio River Valley generating its structure and power. Finally, it is the spirit of the people who will fill this space that adds the most necessary dynamic, that of the natural exuberance of human life.”

Phase I

Size: 55 acres
Cost: $58 million, WDC & others.
Completed: 1999
Notable Features:

  • Great Lawn
  • Wharf and Festival Plaza
  • 900 ft. long water feature
  • Joe’s Crab Shack
  • Overlook
  • Harbor Lawn
  • Walking paths, picnic and play areas

Phase II

Size: 17 acres
Cost: $15 million
Completed: 2004
Notable Features:

  • Adventure Playground
  • Brown-Forman amphitheater
  • Brown-Forman Lawn
  • Restaurant space
  • Promenade
  • Walking paths, picnic and play areas

Phase III

Size: 13 acres
Cost: $41 million
Completed: 2013
Notable Features:

  • Big 4 Pedestrian Bridge
  • Big 4 Lawn
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • The Swing Garden
  • Walking paths, picnic and play areas.