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What’s the future of Bardstown Road? Louisville set to devise a master plan

Bardstown Road

With funding now in place, Louisville officials are set to create a master plan for Bardstown Road. It’ll be the first comprehensive plan for the iconic business and nightlife district in modern history.

Metro Council approved $25,000 last week to cover half the cost of developing a master plan. Louisville Metro’s Office of Advanced Planning and Sustainability is expected to match the appropriation and contract with a third-party consultant to handle design and coordinate public meetings. 

The initial $25,000 came out of funds earmarked for District 8, which includes much of the Highlands and many of the most densely populated parts of Bardstown Road. District 8 Council Member Cassie Chambers Armstrong said Bardstown Road is one of the city’s liveliest and most profitable business districts, but there needs to be a plan to continue building off that success.

“We have access to some of the best parks in the entire city, but yet we haven’t thought about how to connect those parks to each other and Bardstown Road,” she said. “We have an area that has one of the greatest potentials to be walkable because we have such a great housing density, but we haven’t thought long-term about how we actually make it so that people really can get to where they need to go.”

Chambers Armstrong said the idea for a master plan came out of conversations with residents and business owners about the Bardstown Road redesign currently underway. She said there’s a number of planning documents for individual neighborhoods surrounding the corridor, but nothing that looks at the area cohesively. 

“Bardstown Road is unique in that it is this backbone that connects a whole bunch of neighborhoods and small cities, but it’s also become this kind of dividing line between neighborhoods where people identify themselves as being on one side or the other,” Chambers Armstrong said.

What exactly the master plan will cover is still to be determined. City officials will have to decide whether the plan should include zoning, road improvements, new public spaces or all of the above. 

But that doesn’t mean residents and community groups aren’t already thinking about a long-term vision for the district.

Jackie Cobb is president of Friends of Bardstown Road, a collaborative group of business owners and nearby residents. Cobb said most of their work to date has focused on pedestrian safety measures that are part of the redesign the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is managing.

While the first phase is focused on the section of Bardstown Road between its intersections with Broadway to the north and Eastern Parkway to the south, there are plans to eventually take the redesign all the way to the Watterson Expressway. 

“There has been a neighborhood commentary about, ‘Hey, we see what’s happening up on the north end, but what about where we live,’” Cobb said. “So, the master plan is an opportunity to inform this coming next phase of the Bardstown Road redesign and repave.”

While the community will have the opportunity to drive the planning process through public meetings, Cobb said she has her own list of improvements she hopes will be discussed. 

“I think there’s potential in this master planning process to address not only the addition of some public spaces like pocket parks or plazas along Bardstown Road, but also more greenspace in addition to street trees,” she said.

Gathering the public’s input on the future of the Bardstown Road corridor won’t get underway until 2023. 

Michael King, director of Louisville Metro’s Department of Advanced Planning and Sustainability, said the city is hoping to put out an RFP, or request for proposals, early next year. The RFP will outline the scope of the project, and private firms with master plan experience will then bid on the contract.

King said unlike the Bardstown Road/Baxter Avenue Overlay District, which focuses mainly on having consistent design features, the master plan will likely look more at “creating a sense of place along the corridor.”

“Nothing has really — at least in recent history — has looked at the land use or the opportunity to green the corridor, looked at public art along the corridor, whatever those kinds of placemaking solutions might be,” he said. “That’s the real intent of this plan.”

King said the master planning process will start with an existing needs assessment before moving on to public engagement. The final document will look at short-term improvements, as well as more expensive, longer-term goals over the next decade or so. The fun part, he said, will be finding the funding to realize the community’s vision. 

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.