Located near Muhammad Ali’s childhood home, the historic Parkland Neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky was originally a vibrant commercial hub and one of the city’s most prestigious suburbs. But as urban renewal segregated metro Louisville in the 1960’s, separating the city’s Black population from much of the economic growth and activity, the Parkland neighborhood was left behind. Today, the community has very limited meeting space and no safe outdoor access for the four nearby daycare centers.
Despite the adversity, Parkland residents and business owners, together with Center For Neighborhoods, TreesLouisville and Louisville Metro Government, developed a vision for transforming a vacant lot at the intersection of 28th Street and Dumesnil Street into a multi-use community green space where kids can safely play, community and civic groups can meet, local businesses can host pop-up shops and residents can convene for coffee breaks, community events and conversations. Gresham Smith jumped at the chance to be an integral part of implementing this community’s vision and improving the quality of life for those nearby.
reduction in impervious surfaces
Creating ConnectionsParkland Plaza provides a space for all people, in a neighborhood that lacks public open space. What was previously a centralized open space that lacked barriers surrounding the significant features, this site now provides market spaces, concerts, play opportunities and a gathering space for the community. In addition to the functional elements within the plaza, the site also provides drop-off points for the childcare center, as well as parking for the community garden and the site itself.
Embracing the OutdoorsOur project team’s thoughtful design solution balances the tight site footprint and the diverse needs of the community. Large platforms provide both seating and gathering nodes, large boulders act as natural play elements and native plantings and trees provide shade and spatial definition. Additionally, the lack of curbs combined with an ample open space offers a flexible and accessible design for all users and uses.
The site will also have positive environmental impacts. Parkland Plaza will reintroduce lawn and native vegetation, reducing the site’s impervious surfaces by nearly 60 percent, which will reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality and lower surface temperatures to fight against the urban heat island affect.
Partnering with the CommunityIn addition to collaborating with local leaders, our project team also worked with a neighborhood planning group who led the community research, existing site evaluation and collaborative stakeholder engagement and provided feedback during the design process. However, due to COVID-19, we couldn’t meet with the community in person. To gain insight into the community’s wants and needs, we hosted a virtual design charrette to gain feedback and input on the overall design.
Furthermore, to gain community traction and input during the initial phase of the plaza development, our team hosted a series of pop-up events on the site, such as markets and music, and implemented simple design solutions, such as shade, seating and outdoor games. Testing roll-out lawn versus an open lawn area, benches versus platforms and shade structures versus shade trees, these short-term events and installations guided the team in developing a long-term plan for the site.