Downtown Louisville Drowning in a Sea of Parking

Broken Sidewalk's Erik Weber produced this map showing the land area devoted to parking in downtown Louisville. Red indicates surface parking lots; purple indicates single-use parking structures.

How’s this for a bad cliche: Downtown Louisville staked its revitalization on a megaproject, and things didn’t work out as expected. The megaproject was called Museum Plaza, a 62-story tower that the Wall Street Journal once named one of the three most exciting projects in the world. Except the developers of Museum Plaza pulled out earlier this week, citing the weak economy and their inability to secure financing.

Meanwhile, the city is allowing historic buildings to be torn down to make way for more surface parking. Parking is already a suffocating presence in downtown Louisville, says Erik Weber at Network blog Broken Sidewalk. When will public officials see that this, more than a lack of glitzy attractions, is what deserves their attention?

Vast, vitality-sapping surface parking lots like this one dominate downtown Louisville. Photo: Broken Sidewalk

I had some extra time on my hands over the last week, so I took the liberty to mark all of the dedicated-use parking available in downtown Louisville. On the map above, red shapes mark ordinary surface parking lots. Purple shapes mark structures whose sole use is a parking garage—no ground floor retail or office space above.

A conservative estimate shows that (probably) at least a third of Louisville’s downtown surface area is occupied solely by parking. (Compare this with Washington, D.C., whose Central Business District has virtually no surface parking.) When are the developers going to start looking to build on all of this underused, culturally worthless space and leave what little historic fabric there is alone?

In July, the Bloomberg Foundation announced that Louisville would receive a $4.8 million grant to study and improve the efficiency of public works and services. While we work to wring blood from a turnip across the vast array of public and human services, the picture above [right] is nothing more that a glaring indication of inefficiency.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The City Fix shares a study finding that transportation costs are a critical, and underestimated, factor in housing affordability. Bike Omaha reports that bike valet service is coming to the Nebraska State Fair. And Baltimore Spokes says that Ritchie Highway, the dangerous Maryland thoroughfare that we looked at last week, is going to receive pedestrian improvements to prevent further, unnecessary tragedy.