Director's Take

Here are my priorities: Courier-Journal 1/13 image

Here are my priorities: Courier-Journal 1/13

January 13, 2022

I’m The New Executive Director for Louisville Downtown Partnership, Here Are My Priorities

Rebecca Fleischaker Opinion Contributor, Published Jan. 13, 2022
courier-journal.com/story/opinion

Every city has a downtown – the community’s center, where residents gather for work and for fun; to accomplish and to experience; to celebrate and to advocate. A place where the city’s cultural significance is experienced through attractions and events, and where the concentration of commerce creates the largest economic output of any other section of a city. Over 2020-21, COVID has had a negative impact on downtowns everywhere, and we are at the dawn of a new and necessary revitalization of Louisville’s downtown as the business, social and cultural hub of our hometown.

The downtowns that have shown their resilience and sprung back faster are those with diversity and density of uses and people to use them. Louisville is no exception. As your new executive director for Louisville Downtown Partnership, my priorities are in three areas to help build vibrancy for all, no matter where you live, what you look like, or who you love. Downtown is everyone’s neighborhood. 

Placemaking

The basics are vital; cleanliness and vibrant streetscapes are what make an attractive area and help to attract and retain business. Louisville Downtown Partnership has a team of 14 Ambassadors who are on the street every day and night, picking up trash, welcoming residents and visitors and helping discourage unwanted behavior. My goal is to increase this number so that our Ambassadors cover more ground on a consistent basis. LDP also will work with Metro Public Works to update the inventory of streetlights, sidewalks and other street furniture to assess what needs to be replaced, repaired or augmented. And we have a tremendous opportunity to advocate that Metro assign funds from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to put toward these improvements. 

More Housing

Louisville falls behind other cities in the amount of downtown housing, notably workforce housing opportunities that are attractive to young professionals. Mobile 20- and 30-something-year-olds want walkable areas that are unique and close to their workplace. More housing will add that needed diversity of uses and density of people on the street, increasing downtown’s vibrancy, and be a tremendous boon for talent attraction. LDP is making a request through Metro Council for American Rescue Plan funds toward this end, and also will team with the Jefferson County PVA, GLI and Louisville Metro to advocate for new tools through this year’s state legislative session. We are seeking a higher cap, or no cap, for projects seeking the historic preservation tax credit, along with a new property tax abatement program for new downtown housing. Both of these would significantly help developers mitigate the higher cost of developing in urban settings, help reuse architecturally significant yet underused buildings and make financing work to increase the number of affordable units.

Spreading Optimism

Perhaps my biggest challenge will be to be louder than the negative or defeatist commentary that seems to get more mindshare than anything positive that has been taking place downtown. There has been so much momentum in 2021 and Louisville keeps receiving national buzz, but I continue to be disappointed hearing residents wonder if downtown is safe (crime in Downtown is 3% of all of Jefferson County) or whether employees should return to the office because of COVID (we’ve shown we can manage through it for nearly two years). More than $1 billion of developments have been announced in and around downtown in the last year, including Churchill Downs’ Derby City Gaming and Dream Hotel, investments in corporate offices of Baird and Humana, and new restaurants and retail on the street level. Since last spring, downtown streets and attractions are alive and back to pre-COVID levels in the evenings and on weekends.

We are social beings and need each other in our work and in our play. Without bumping into each other at the water cooler or on our way to meetings or lunch, we are missing opportunities for the creative collisions that help us innovate and ideate, and to work more effectively and most importantly, more happily. There’s so much you can’t get out of work while sitting in your living room or kitchen.

I am optimistic, and I ask you to get loud with me. We need to help find new and creative ways to get people on the sidewalks and revitalize a critical neighborhood that has all the right assets and attractions. I hope to see more of you on the downtown streets soon. 

https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2022/01/13/louisville-downtown-partnerships-new-executive-director-priorities-opinion/9095190002/

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