Long ago Louisville, Kentucky, came to be known as “the Gateway to the South.” On October 24-27, 2002, I led a group of 19 urban planning students on a field trip to this lovely city, the place where I grew up.
As was the case with earlier trips to the Twin Cities, this one was designed to give students a good opportunity to connect their course readings and discussions with one of the nation’s larger city-regions and, by enabling them to meet with various professionals and citizens, to give them a better sense of the kinds of work practicing planners (and others involved in the process of planning) actually do.
To prepare for our trip, we read available background material about the city (including excerpts from the outstanding new Encyclopedia of Louisville), and I had students focus their research projects on specific planning initiatives, some of them historical (e.g., Frederick Law Olmsted’s and Harland Bartholomew’s plans) and some of them quite current (e.g., New Urbanist and Hope VI projects, the regional transportation plan, the Brookings Institute’s analysis of the city’s and county’s recent merger).
We met with Bill Summers (Executive Vice-President for Public Policy) and other staff of Greater Louisville, Inc. to learn about their support for the merger and economic development; Mayor David Armstrong to learn about his vision of the city; Charles Cash of the Louisville Development Authority and Planning Commission, and Clark Bledsoe, former director of the Planning Commission; David Tomes, president of Triad Development Co., to learn about his efforts to develope the “New Urbanist” Norton Commons project; and Susan Rademacher of the Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy to learn about the Olmsted parks and parkways system.
In addition with meeting with these professionals, we also explored various parts of the city. Much to our good fortune, Dr. Tom Owens, Associate Archivist for Local History at the University of Louisville and member of the city’s Board of Aldermen, took us on a fascinating tour of the downtown.
On the west and south sides, we visited the Russell neighborhood, which had been the heart and soul of the black community in Louisville until urban renewal in the early-60s; the Portland neighborhood, MacAlpine Locks and Dams, Shawnee Park, Muhammad Ali’s boyhood home, the Park DuValle HOPE VI development, the Rubbertown petrochemical complex, Churchill Downs, and Southern and Parkway.
On the east side, we visited Tomes’ Norton Commons development, Upper River Road, Hurstbourne Parkway, Bowman Field, my childhood home near Bowman Field, Seneca and Cherokee Parks, and Eastern Parkway.
We had a chance to sample some great food at Buckhead’s Restaurant in Jeffersonville with Planning alumnus Rich Ray and at Ditto’s Restaurant on Bardstown Road with some of my local friends and relatives. And, thanks to Susan Rademacher, we even had an extraordinary opportunity to attend a Halloween fundraising party sponsored by the Olmsted Conservancy and held at the old Masonic Home on Frankfort Avenue.
None of this trip could have been arranged without the assistance of planning alumni Jennifer (Moody) Dye (1995) and Richard Ray (1996). A tip of the hat goes to them for their efforts.
In the end this trip proved not just enlightening but great fun as well!