Leadership Louisville Center


Louisville, KY


Engineering, Landscape Architecture, Planning, Site Development

When The Leadership Louisville Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing the region’s leaders, moved to a historic building on Main Street, they were only missing one thing: outdoor space. The small pedestrian alley in the back was sandwiched between the existing building and the city’s flood wall. Leadership Louisville called on Gresham Smith to navigate the overgrown green space and create a flexible area for programming and community events. The result? A vibrant outdoor gathering space with views of the Ohio River.

foot drop-off
level terrace
foot floodwall setback

Overcoming Site Challenges

The project’s site posed a number of challenges, including the steep hillside and the flood wall. The top of the hill only had 12 feet of flat ground before an eight-foot drop off down to the alley. Additionally, the small lot was actually owned by the city. Working closely with the City of Louisville, the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District and the Army Corp of Engineers, we designed a two-level deck system that sits 12 feet above the alley below and offers views over the flood wall, all while working within the Army Corp of Engineers Flood Wall Protection System.

a side-by-side image of the site plan and the final Leadership Louisville Center Courtyard

A Fun, Flexible Space

The top level of the terrace serves as a viewing deck, clad in a bamboo resin decking material and surrounded by native grasses. The bottom level, which is meant to serve as an event space, is made of a contrasting cool concrete and features built in benches for lounging. The space also includes moveable furniture that can be used during the day and hidden away for evening events.