‹‹ Back to Showcase Home Viewing Showcase 2

Rivers Landing Condominiums

Diamond in the Rough

Converting an unusable area is clearly a benefit to the environment.

Years of four-wheeling and camping nearly destroyed Stone Lake, a 33-acre lake northeast of Louisville, Kentucky. The lake’s original function as an industrial sand mine ended years ago, and developers were challenged to revitalize the area into a livable, environmentally friendly community, Rivers Landing. GS&P planners and engineers not only rebuilt the shores of the lake to improve stability, they tied its water flow to nearby sources and effectively improved water quality for the entire area. Recognized for its adaptive re-use and green engineering, the project has given residents and wildlife a reason to enjoy Stone Lake and the Ohio River once again.

What were your first impressions of the site, and how did you evaluate its viability?

Mark Sparks: The first time I ever saw the site with the developer, I thought he was nuts. The area was an old abandoned sand quarry industrial site that had been steadily eroded by four-wheeling and constant dumping. The developer’s vision completely eluded me, and I thought he was crazy, but as it turned out, he wasn’t. The geotech made recommendations, and we realized that we could make it work. We knew we would have to move the road and shift buildings a bit, but it was definitely doable, so it became a team effort to make it work.

Once you determined the site could be developed, what were the first steps?

Jon Henney: One of the first hurdles we had to overcome was getting zoning approvals by the planning commission. There were some obstacles that weren’t directly related to our site or our developer. Another residential subdivision had been approved and was putting undue strain on the existing waste water treatment plant, resulting in some water quality issues that had upset the neighbors. Since our site had storm water and erosion issues, some area residents resented any kind of development of the area because they thought the developer was just looking for a way to make money. To the developer’s credit, we became convinced that it was an opportunity to take an industrial eyesore and turn it into a very attractive residential development. In fact, the county judge was one of the first to buy one of the units when the project was completed.

Knowing that the community had some concerns, how did you convince them the development would improve the quality of life in the area?

Jon: A lot of it had to do with showing them how the developer’s improvements would actually convert a diamond in the rough into something that was a real positive. We demonstrated how we were going to take a sand quarry pit with standing water in it and make it into a lake. Once you got past all the environmental issues and cleaning up some of the existing mess, they could see the potential. A lot of people still remained skeptical because of empty promises from other developers in the past. But as the project evolved and things actually started happening, they became convinced that we were going to do what we had promised.

An adjacent site, Cardinal Harbor, had some standing water issues. Were improvements to that area part of your initial proposal, or was the area improved by virtue of the Rivers Landing design?

Mark: Cardinal Harbor is an area in the Ohio River floodplain that had been poorly planned and drained. In fact, one of the main drains from Cardinal Harbor discharged onto our site and eroded a significant portion of the site, leeching material into the lake. Improving Cardinal Harbor was part of the plan from the beginning because we had to correct it to make our site usable.

Part of your design included the creation of a permanent “sea wall.” Why was the wall necessary?

Mark: The wall was built because the water level from the lake fluctuates seasonally. Based on recent rainfall events, we were concerned that the bank had fallen so rapidly that it might completely erode . Water absorbs into the soil as it rises, and discharges as it falls. If the water rises too fast, the moving water in the soil tries to carry the soil with it. So we had to figure out how to conserve what we thought the elevation range of the lake was the majority of the time. Once we did that, we determined where the wall would need to be placed. There will be times when the lake water will be above the wall, and times when it will be below the wall. In the best case scenario, the water level will be right on the wall.

How does your design implement green engineering?

Jon: Converting an unusable area such as an old abandoned industrial site into a viable area is clearly a benefit to the environment. In this case, we reused what would normally be considered a less than desirable property rather than building the same development somewhere else.

Mark: There was abandoned equipment on the site with a lot of overgrowth, and other places with severe erosion. There were also places where people had dumped waste and old construction materials. We cleaned all of that up and restored the landscape.

Jon: We were able to take places that weren’t vegetated at all and turn them green.

Mark: And now you’ll see blue heron at the lake and a large deer population around the development.

What part of this project has been particularly gratifying to you?

Mark: I had the pleasure of seeing a dismal site transformed into a beautiful residential area. The development has beautiful patio homes with two units per building, and also single-family homes. One particular residence sold for almost one million dollars. It overlooks the lake, and the rear of it overlooks the river. It’s just an amazing place to live. It was very pleasing to see that.

John Campbell: I was excited about the project from day one. The best part of putting together this design was considering the location of the buildings. I appreciate how the developer’s plans took advantage of every possible view. He probably could have placed a lot more units on the property, but he was respectful of the site.

Jon: As a planner, this project became a personal challenge because we got turned down twice during the planning process. We continued to believe that our client had an exceptional vision for this piece of property and the development would be beneficial to the community. So we continued to fight for them and work through the system, which included convincing very skeptical residents that this was not the kind of development they were used to seeing. To ultimately see the project succeed and receive all the accolades really makes you feel good as a planner knowing that the right decision ultimately prevailed.


Send us a message
Hidden Fields - Do not change.

Download PDF

Download project PDF
Hidden Fields

After clicking SUBMIT, an email will be sent to you with a link to the PDF. Don't worry, we will not share your information with anyone.

Project Info

  • Client: Hinton McGraw Developers
  • Location: Oldham County, KY, USA
  • Market: Land Planning and Design
  • Services: Engineering, Planning, Sustainability, Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering
  • Team:
    • Christopher H. Dickinson, P.E. Principal-in-Charge
    • Mark E. Sparks, P.E. Project Manager, Project professional
    • John Campbell Project Professional
    • Jonathan D. Henney, AICP, ASLA Project Designer
  • Awards:

    President’s Grand Award / Home Builders Association of Louisville / Best Patio, Condo, Garden or Town Home Community

Share This Page: