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Proposal to Add Development Restrictions in NuLu Wins Louisville Council Committee Approval

More than 10 blocks in the NuLu neighborhood just east of downtown Louisville along Market Street is on track to become the city's next "overlay district."

Overlay districts are meant to maintain the historic and urban value of an area by requiring developers to adhere to specific guidelines dictating signage, awnings, buildings, public art, parking, historic preservation and sustainability, said Rebecca Matheny, executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership.

On Tuesday, a Metro Council committee unanimously approved the proposed ordinance for the NuLu area. It now must be approved by the full council before becoming law.

An overlay district requires all new development, renovations and demolitions to gain approval from a nine member committee, said Matheny. Committee members would be appointed by Mayor Greg Fischer and confirmed by the Louisville Metro Council.

The committee would include representatives from both neighborhood associations within the proposed overlay district, and from city officials.

Here is a list of how the committee will be composed, according to the proposed ordinance.

  • One member of the Landmarks Commission (one year initial term).
  • One staff member or Commissioner of the Louisville Metro Planning Commission (one year initial term).
  • One architect or landscape architect (one year initial term).
  • One member of the Mayor’s Committee on Public Amenities (two year initial term).
  • One representative of the Board of the Downtown Development Corporation (two year initial term).
  • One resident of the NuLu Review Overlay District (two year initial term).
  • One representative of the Phoenix Hill Neighborhood Association (three year initial term).
  • One Representative of the Butchertown Neighborhood Association (three year initial term).
  • One representative of the NuLu Business Association (three year initial term).

Here is a map of the proposed overlay district in the NuLu neighborhood.


Matheny said the site was designed to not conflict with Butchertown architectural review committee's nearby boundaries, which include the site of a proposed residential development at Main and Clay Street.

"The unique character of the NuLu area really is a perfect candidate for an overlay district," she said. "Not only to preserve the character of the buildings that are there, but also to have guidelines and review in terms of scale of new projects and how new projects might affect the area."

Matheny said she does not expect an overlay district designation to stymie development in the area of the city that has, in recent years, been a hotbed for revitalization.

"We really think it's a great way to guide appropriate development in the area and longterm, sustainable development in the area and to provide a level of control the folks that are already there," she said.

The overlay district would include exemptions, including ordinary repairs, removal of existing signage without replacement, temporary signage (less than two months) and emergency repairs ordered by the city.

Metro Council member Tom Owen, a Democrat who represents the city's 8th District, which lies an overlay district, said controversy will be a repercussion of creating an overlay district.

"There is the heavy hand of bureaucracy when we create this," he said.

And he added that developers commonly find ways to "circumvent at least the spirit of an overlay district." Especially, he said, regarding signs and parking.

But he said "some flexibility" is necessary for a successful overlay district.

"At its best, an overlay district has to exhibit both flexibility and the assertiveness of the values and the goals," he said.

If approved by the full council the overlay district will be an designation with indefinite end date. Other overlay districts in the Metro area include Bardstown Road-Baxter Avenue and the Downtown Development overlay districts.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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