Building on the initial efforts of City Collaborative to activate underutilized surface lots and previtalize key sites in the city through the ReSurfaced program, sights have been set on the Urban Government Center (UGC) in the Paristown Pointe neighborhood at the corner of Breckinridge and Barret for the Spring of 2016. The underlying idea for the Spring ReSurfaced is based on the public commons, creating a space where people from around the community can come to engage, collaborate, create, and celebrate.
The nearly 12-acre UGC property offers a number of essential characteristics that make it an attractive site for the next iteration of ReSurfaced. The approximately 300 Louisville Metro employees that currently work at the UGC are slated to be relocated by January 2016, a move which will open up the potential for a large scale redevelopment of the site in a key location in Louisville. This presents a real opportunity to utilize ReSurfaced as a pre-vitalization strategy that can creatively engage the community in the process. By activating the space we can gather input and ideas for what the surrounding neighborhoods would like to see done with the site and attract potential developers interested in doing something special with this unique location.
The site is surrounded by well-established neighborhoods including Germantown and the Original Highlands as well as neighborhoods that are beginning to see a revival including Smoketown/Shelby Park and Phoenix Hill, not to mention the latest efforts in Paristown Pointe. There is a unique opportunity here to engage with these surrounding neighborhoods to not only hear their issues and opportunities, but to gather their ideas and support for the future plans to redevelop the UGC site as a hub for the surrounding neighborhoods.
This site offers an opportunity to experiment with ReSurfaced in a location that is surrounded by walkable residential near the existing commercial corridors of Bardstown Road and Barret Avenue. Unlike the first ReSurfaced location, that essentially was a destination due to the sparse number of people living nearby, the UGC site provides a laboratory for developing temporary retail and other amenities that could extend the activation of the site beyond an initial six-week programmed run.
ABOUT THE SITE
The Urban Government Center occupies approximately 12-acres primarily bounded by Barret Avenue to the east, Vine Street to the west, Brent Street to the north, and Breckinridge Street to the south. There is a 2-acre parking lot on the est side of Vine Street that is also part of the UGC.
Given the sprawling nature of the site, ReSurfaced will focus on strategic areas to maximize visibility and utility of the space. We are currently looking at site “A” (see diagram right) as the primary location. This lot that measures approximately 60’ x 160’ is the most level contiguous space on the site, has a two-foot tall brick knee-wall that helps to provide a sense of enclosure for activities, and allows a great deal of visibility from the major Barret Avenue corridor.
The site also offers the availability of power, lighting, potential access to restrooms, and enough distance from residential areas along Breckinridge to avoid noise nuisance. The section is also easily cordoned off from vehicular traffic.
Other areas of the site offer possibilities for additional activities such as an urban soccer league pitch, food truck court, and basketball courts.
The intention of this ReSurfaced project is to experiment with activation approaches that could serve as a model for more sites throughout the community. Unlike the first ReSurfaced site on Main Street with the interesting existing historic facades, this new site is much more endemic of the vast number of blank and uninspiring surface lots and underutilized spaces throughout Louisville.
This site offers the opportunity to experiment with pre-vitalization. Building on other pop-up retail projects around the country, particularly the previous DeKalb Market project in Brooklyn (top right photos), this ReSurfaced will look to create a hub of activity scaled to the Louisville context.
CREATING AN ACTIVITY HUB
The main goals of the initiative will be to activate the space with entertainment, education, local arts, and retail while creating a place that fosters neighborhood redevelopment. By introducing a number of retrofitted shipping containers as retail shops, co-working facilities, a restaurant, and bar area, the initiative can begin to experiment and illustrate some of the potential future activities of the site as a mixed-use development.
The effort will reimagine the public engagement process in Louisville. By taking the public discourse out of the typical planning meeting rooms and bringing it outdoors to the pop-up venue, injecting entertainment, arts, and technology, the effort will experiment with strategies to increase participation and develop a more dynamic model for community engagement. This centralized space to the five adjacent neighborhoods will facilitate discussions about the future of the UGC space while creating synergies among these neighborhoods, highlighting collaborative opportunities as well as share common issues and solutions. Over the course of a five to six week programmed event at ReSurfaced, each neighborhood would have their own week of programmed meetings and engagement accompanied by entertainment and family friendly events held for everyone.
By collaborating with the University of Louisville, University of Kentucky, and other educational institutions, the project can bring an educational component to the site to introduce architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, engineering, arts, and other urban issues to the neighborhood discussions as well as the experimentation and development of the site. Also provides an opportunity to include local professionals that could contribute to the conversation while engaging youth in a variety of community building situations.
The community engagement and educational activities are critical components, however it will be crucial to create a space that attracts people as an entertainment venue as well. Programming for the space over six weeks will focus on one neighborhood per week and include music, arts, and family functions beyond the community engagement efforts.
In order to create a space that reflects the future mixed-use development hopes for the site a retail component will be a new addition to the ReSurfaced programming. Along with some established retail shops working out of converted shipping containers, there is an opportunity to create a couple local retail incubators. Utilizing the approach in Memphis to help first-time retailers get started, the incubator fits with the overall approach of City Collaborative and ReSurfaced to provide a platform for experimentation.
Tactical Urbanism/Urban Prototyping Mini-Conference
Pairing the next ReSurfaced with a mini-conference on tactical urbanism and urban prototyping will provide tools to enhance the neighborhood problem-solving and collaboration efforts. The two-day conference will bring together national, regional and local TU pioneers to kick off ReSurfaced in April, fueling project ideation for the following six-week programmed initiative.
BEER GARDEN & RESTAURANT
Biergarten in San Francisco serves as a good model for the initiative at the next ReSurfaced. The intimate space that they created with two shipping containers (one a bar and the other a restaurant), tables and benches similar to CC’s beer garden tables, simple layout and compressed space made it much more of a hangout without requiring bands or other entertainment to be a functional and utilized space.
City Collaborative will utilize the two existing shipping container bars and an additional container fitted out to be a turn-key restaurant facility with all the necessary sinks and amenities that could either be run by a seasoned restaurateur, possibly the bar operator, to ensure consistency with the potential for other vendors such as Tasty Tuxedo and other food trucks/carts on site for larger events.
To support one of the main goals of the effort, to become a community gathering space or public house, we are exploring ways to create a covered seating area as a major amenity to the site. Pop Brixton provides a great model of this type of space, utilizing relatively inexpensive materials such as greenhouse framing and plastic, though stacking this on shipping containers would only make sense in a more permanent location. By creating such a space, it has the potential to create a temporary pavilion like the much more expensive and permanent one in Lexington (pictured bottom-right). The covered space could be lit up as a feature and extend the usability of the space during rain or inclement weather.
STAGE & EVENT SPACE
A 20-foot wide by 16 foot deep stage will occupy the north end of the site by the pedestrian skyway for performances and other programmed events. Some form of enclosed and secure structures should be incorporated by the stage to reduce the need to break down audio equipment after every event. One thought would be to have two 20-foot containers at the end that could serve as storage and a green room as well as house the speakers and other audio equipment, possibly with internal power panel for security. Could create a “Before I Die” type installation along the fronts of these containers to provide more utility and aesthetics. Should explore other possible solutions beyond containers.
STUDIOS & CO-WORKING FACILITIES
To bring together creative entrepreneurs, academia, and the public to foster neighborhood collaboration and idea development, at least two containers will be fitted out as studio/co-working space with working room for staff, students, and other personnel as well as equipment and storage to function as remote workspaces. This provides an opportunity to get the University of Louisville’s Urban Planning, Business, Arts and Engineering programs involved as well as the University of Kentucky’s Landscape Architecture and Architecture programs. Interest has been expressed by at least one existing organization to create a Co-Working facility separate from the universities to be on site.
Various shipping containers will be arranged around the site to create a local retail shopping and incubator component providing economic opportunity for independent entrepreneurs, artists, and other creative. The market component helps to develop a more complete activity hub and promotes experimentation with how to pre-vitalize the site for future mixed-use. A good model to look at for the market concept, though defunct now, is the DeKalb Market (dekalbmarket.com). The Dekalb Market is now defunct because the space was bought to be redeveloped, a circumstance we would hope that ReSurfaced could provide a similar catalyst for.
URBAN PROTOTYPING INSTALLATIONS
Building on the Urban Prototyping Festival work in San Francisco and connections made during a trip there for the event, a series of urban prototyping installations should be commissioned and built through a submission and curated process. These interventions would be site specific and bring in the maker and creative arts community, along with neighborhood groups, to help shape the space, creating a laboratory of urban experiments and functioning public art. These could be in conjunction with the Tactical Urbanism mini-conference and add a new dimension to the ReSurfaced initiative. UP would also offer the opportunity to engage with various arts groups around the city including COPA, Speed, KMAC, UofL and other related organizations and programs.
Surface parking and large vacant lots have greatly weakened our urban fabric. From downtown extending out to our city’s neighborhoods, these underutilized spaces continue to pose challenges for creating vibrant places and connected communities.
The map above illustrates the need to for change with almost 25% of downtown Louisville and adjacent areas are paved parking areas, not including parking garages and metered spaces.
ReSurfaced is a program in conjunction with community partners to explore creative ways to pre-vitalize these vacant and underutilized sites by creating low-cost investments that activate these spaces NOW and guide future long-term development initiatives.