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Smoketown's New Sewer Basin Design Met With Neighborhood Approval

Photo by J. Tyler Franklin

A quiet field on Logan Street in Smoketown is hiding something big.

Underground, there’s a 16.7 million gallon sewer overflow basin that the Metropolitan Sewer District opened on Tuesday. It's one of 12 sewer overflow basins in the works across the city, and it's meant to capture large amounts of water during rain events, then pump the water to treatment plants. Metro officials cut the ribbon on the facility earlier this week, after months of construction and a major design change.

The field is mostly empty, with some areas covered in grass, others in seed, others in hay.

At opposite ends, concrete structures wrapped with iron fences provide the only sign that this isn’t just a park.

Matt Williams, who works for Walsh Construction, the basin’s builder, said it’s what inside those buildings that keeps the facility running.

"Inside there, there's a bunch of technological stuff that controls flush gates which let water in and out through the interceptor basin," he said.

The green space is a win for the neighborhood, which came together to fight the original plan. That would have put a large, windowless brick building on the lot instead.

Nachand Trabue is a former Smoketown resident who still owns a business in the area. She said the community will be able to actually use the space.

"This green space idea is going to be amazing because now you’re able to have people to come and do all type of different activities here," she said.

MSD director Tony Parrott said switching to a design that put almost everything underground cost extra money, but it’s made area residents happy.

“It was going to cost us an additional $6 million to bury it, so that was really the main issue that we had to address," Parrott said, "Yeah, it was additional money but they felt like their community was worth it.”

For Smoketown residents, the field atop the Logan Street Basin is a good outcome, said Kelly Kinahan, an assistant professor at the University of Louisville in the Urban and Public Affairs department.

“Something that a community always desires, right, is a space to sort of be outdoors and have a place to gather with neighbors and to be able to take advantage of those things," she said. "I think this is something that Smoketown needs.”

Some, like Old Louisville resident and historian John Paul, believe the green space can contribute to environmental efforts in the city.

“We have a problem with a heat island effect and to have any more grass, all the grass we can get is a good thing and that’s why I’m happy of the outcome," he said.

Valencia Bass might be the person most closely affected by the field’s opening. Her house is one of the only ones occupied on the 900 block of Logan Street. Her yard is neat, with Christmas decorations wrapping the porch railings and a large, glittering tree visible from the front yard. The neighboring houses are in varying stages of disrepair or renovation.

She’s lived in the house for a year-and-a-half. That timing spared her from the blasting work across the street, but she still had to deal with cranes and construction.

Bass said she heard the field might get a running and walking track.

"My hope is that they’ll use it for … craft shows, for farmers markets, for you know, art shows, whatever, that kind of thing, little booths, that kind of thing," she said. "And then in the meantime, it’s a wonderful place to walk your dog and just kind of get a little bit of exercise.”

Another thing that’s keeping her happy, despite the months of heavy construction just across the street: Bass estimates her house’s value has grown about $20,000 already.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.

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