Director's Take

Response to 12/03 WDRB POV


In response to WDRB’s President and General Manager Dale Woods’s careless Point of View on the health of Downtown, we would like to offer some counter points that are more fact-based and optimistic. COVID has indeed affected the number of people in downtown, but if you’ve actually been downtown, you’ll know that Mr. Woods can only be referring to the weekday and not the tourists and residents who are enjoying the many concerts, museums, restaurants, and sporting and cultural events that are attracting pre-COVID levels of attendance during evenings and weekends.

With the increasing trends in hybrid working models being used by employers across the country, Louisville will need to adapt the uses of its many architecturally significant buildings into other uses than originally designed office buildings. Louisville is behind its peer cities in the number of downtown housing units, in particular 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; this would be a tremendous boon for our talent and workforce attraction efforts.

Redeveloping buildings in an urban setting is harder and more costly than greenfield development, and Kentucky is limited in its development incentives. We need to have better financial incentives to help developers close the financing gap in order to create more housing, and therefore more people on the street. Studies have shown that 1,000 people living within a 5-minute walk can support an entire block of retail/restaurant businesses.

Mr. Woods falsely asserts that there are businesses waiting to be acquired. Since the beginning of just this year, more than double the amount of businesses have opened than closed in Downtown. Louisville Downtown Partnership works with Louisville Metro and Greater Louisville Inc. on business attraction efforts to locate new businesses in Downtown as well as retain existing ones. Mr. Woods apparently is not aware that over $1 billion dollars of developments have been announced in and around Downtown in 2021, including recent announcements such as Churchill Downs’ Derby City Gaming, Dream Hotel, and just this week Heine Brothers’ opened and Stoll Keenon Ogden announced they are staying in Downtown.

Downtown is the heart of our city, of our region, as the largest employment center in the region and third-largest tax revenue generator in the state. Downtown is everyone’s neighborhood, and it’s important that it looks and feels good and that the public assets are in good shape. Downtown has a team of a dozen cleaning and hospitality ambassadors that pick up litter in the Central Business District seven days a week making it one of the cleanest and most welcoming areas within our county. Trash is simply “not scattered all over the place.”

Finally, Mr. Woods makes a very misleading statement about crime in Downtown, pointing to homicides and carjackings… most of which are occurring outside Downtown. Further, he exacerbates this wronged perception of an unsafe downtown by not presenting the facts that would clearly show that Downtown is one of the safest urban areas in our county… less than 2% of the county’s homicides or carjackings occurred in Downtown.

While media outlets are quick to cover the bad news, it is rarer that they cover the good. Downtowns across the world are struggling with the impact of COVID-19, and we have to innovate and be ready for when the world moves forward again. That means finding new and creative ways to get people on the sidewalks and revitalize a neighborhood that has all the right assets and attractions. Maybe reporters can ask business leaders, government officials, and developers how to help do that, or possibly share with the public ways to get engaged and help correct misperceptions, rather than irresponsibly spread a false narrative. As a member of the media, and especially as a GM of a news station, we expect more of Mr. Woods. More accuracy and more homework.

Bill Schreck, Interim Executive Director, Louisville Downtown Partnership
Rebecca Fleischaker, Incoming Executive Director, Louisville Downtown Partnership

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