• Louisville’s New Efficiency + Renewable Program: Energy Project Assessment District (EPAD)

    February 7, 2017

    The NuLu Sustainability District has been hard at work. In 2016, a small business building characteristic and energy efficiency survey was completed, in partnership with the University of Louisville. In 2017, there will be a strong focus on neighborhood engagement in support of increased opportunities and access to energy efficiency and sustainability in NuLu. The 2016 survey identified a strong baseline of information, including custom energy savings opportunities for many locally-owned, small businesses in NuLu. The 2017 engagement work will link the opportunities to save money with implementation actions and programs, along with actual dollars saved.


    Street scene in Louisville

    photo by: Andy Snow

    Small scale commercial buildings in NuLu are home to businesses of all sizes. (Louisville, Kentucky)

    Recently, the Louisville Metro Council passed an ordinance to establish a Jefferson County-wide Energy Project Assessment District (EPAD) to encourage increased energy efficiency in Louisville. The EPAD Program is a tool that allows property owners to leverage and repay private loans for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation projects through a voluntary assessment in the same manner as one pays for property taxes (similar to the growing movement of Property Assessed Clean Energy programs across the country). The new program is a strong move towards a more sustainable Louisville and will certainly solve some of the challenges property owners run into when weighing the pros and cons of implementing efficiency or renewable projects. In fact, through EPAD, property owners may finance up to 100% of their project’s cost. Moving forward, the NuLu Sustainability District will look for opportunities to integrate the use of EPAD into future projects.

    Save the Date: The first NuLu small business sustainability engagement opportunity of 2017 will take place on Wednesday, March 1st and will serve as a broad and informational “Greening Your Business” workshop. The workshop is co-organized by: Louisville Downtown Partnership, Louisville Metro Sustainability, Preservation Green Lab, and Midwest Clean Energy Enterprise.

    For more information about Louisville’s innovative EPAD program, please visit: https://louisvilleky.gov/government/sustainability/epad-program

  • Heart of Louisville 2015 Year in Review

    January 4, 2016

    As winter begins and we reflect on our first years’ worth of work in Louisville, it is important to highlight a few areas of success in 2015 as well as activities we are very much looking forward to in the New Year.

    Main Street - Heart of Louisville

    photo by: Andy Snow

    Main Street - Louisville, Kentucky

    As previous updates have stated, the Green Lab spent a significant amount of time in 2015 working on two unexpected opportunities – the Royal Visit of Prince Charles and the Omni Development at the Water Company Block downtown – as well as significant capacity-building with the Louisville Preservation Fund. During the March visit from HRH Prince Charles, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation Green Lab were pleased to participate in the Symposium on Health and Harmony, hosted by Christy Brown.

    • As part of the Harmony Village at the African-American Heritage Center, Green Lab staff discussed our research on sustainable preservation with the Duchess of Cornwall, who expressed strong interest in our maps of Louisville’s older buildings. We also networked with a range of other Louisville organizations involved in related work, such as natural resource conservation, water infrastructure, and local food sources.
    • The Green Lab arranged a panel on the importance of preserving the built environment and successful economic development, held at the Filson Historical Society. Moderated by the National Trust’s President and CEO Stephanie Meeks, the panel featured three speakers: Mark Huppert, a Seattle-based development consultant; Gill Holland, a successful local developer; and, Jim Lindberg, Senior Director of the Trust’s Preservation Green Lab. Each provided unique insights on the importance of older buildings, human-scale design, and the opportunities to spark increased investment in Louisville’s historic core. A lively discussion with local attendees followed.
    • At the conclusion of this panel, Stephanie Meeks was joined by His Royal Highness, Christina Lee Brown, and Mayor Greg Fischer. Stephanie announced the launch of the Heart of Louisville National Treasure – the first National Treasure to focus on an entire city as a learning laboratory to test creative approaches to preservation that can provide models for others cities across the nation. Stephanie presented His Royal Highness with a Presidential Achievement Award to recognize his contribution to the field of historic preservation internationally. We were particularly delighted by the Prince’s unscripted speech thanking Stephanie and lending insights into his personal interest regarding the connections between heritage preservation and sustainability.
    Portland Neighborhood - Heart of Louisville

    photo by: Andy Snow

    Portland Neighborhood - Louisville, Kentucky

    Later in the summer, we engaged in discussion around the Water Company Building and block with the demolition of structures to make way for the Omni development. Though publicly contentious, this conversation provided the Green Lab an opportunity to deepen relationships with various players in Metro and provide a model for future engagement with local stakeholders.

    • In June, we convened a Community Design Charrette to explore alternatives to the proposed demolition of historic buildings associated with the Omni Hotel development in downtown Louisville. Held at the University of Louisville Urban Design Studio, the Design Charrette brought together more than 40 local and national advocates and design experts. The participants generated five alternatives to Metro’s proposal, and showed how a participatory process could better serve the needs of both city officials and local advocates. Although none of the alternatives were ultimately successful, the process provided a valuable example for the future. Metro has since expressed a need for increased integration between historic preservation and overall development goals – a direct result of our work.

    Aside from these rather major events, we have also been busy implementing our work plan in three main areas:

    Better Building Reuse Louisville. In cities across the country, the Green Lab uses data and spatial analysis to understand how older buildings and blocks contribute to community sustainability. Our unique analysis informs discussions with local stakeholders regarding strategies to accelerate revitalization.

    • In Louisville, some first-year activities in this area included data collection on all buildings and parcels within the city’s boundaries, as well as a range of social, economic, and environmental indicators, to create a foundation for policy development; and, creation of a “character score” map for the city, showing concentrations of older, smaller, age-diverse fabric that Green Lab research has shown is critical for future sustainable development. These maps will be available on a public web application, being developed by the National Trust’s GIS Analyst, starting in January.
    • Additionally, we gathered a small group of local developers, business owners, preservationists, and metro government staff to identify and prioritize key barriers to successful building reuse in Louisville. In January, we’ll be gathering this same group of people to develop solutions to overcoming these barriers – which will form an action agenda we hope to work with the city to implement over the course of the year.

    Urban Demonstrations. In addition to our data and spatial analysis, the Green Lab is testing new approaches to preservation challenges in Louisville through our America Saves! pilot program in NuLu. This national Department of Energy-funded program looks at energy efficiency as a form of capital that can be delivered to small businesses on a district scale. We are partnering with the University of Louisville School of Engineering to collect building and utility data for NuLu properties, which will be used to design cost-effective energy retrofits aimed at saving dollars locally, which can then be reinvested in small business. In 2016, we are looking forward to a new partnership with the city’s Sustainability District initiatives – integrating energy efficiency retrofits for older buildings into the other sustainability efforts being developed by the city through an EcoDistrict model.

    Capacity Building. The long-term success of this urban laboratory project will require the leadership of a strong local organization that is dedicated to preservation-based real estate development. The Green Lab’s capacity building efforts toward this goal in 2015 included:

    • Creation of a 12-member Advisory Committee, representing traditional and non-traditional partners in sustainability and development, to guide and inform our work in Louisville.
    • Strategic planning and board development for the Louisville Preservation Fund. We facilitated a board planning retreat for the LPF board and organized a webinar on how to launch a revolving fund with staff from successful organizations in Macon, GA and Greensboro, NC. We are in ongoing conversations around growing and strengthening this organization to lead preservation-based real estate development in Louisville as an essential component of a more vibrant, healthy, and resilient city of the future.
    Story & Frankfort Avenues - Heart of Louisville

    photo by: Andy Snow

    Story & Frankfort Avenues - Louisville, Kentucky

    We look forward to forging ahead in 2016 and are excited about a number of opportunities, including:

    Opportunity Analysis. With the first layer of our data analysis complete, we are looking forward to adding the additional layers that will give allow for an analysis of areas of opportunity for both market-driven and community-based development efforts. Additional data layers will be added to the web application that is being rolled out in January.

    Small-Scale Development. The Green Lab is participating in the development and execution of the Spring Capstone class at the University of Louisville – focused on fine grain, incremental development downtown. Inspired by Green Lab research and partnerships, students will explore the performance of blocks downtown and conduct analysis of the existing fabric, with the ultimate goal of activating underutilized space to achieve a more complete, vital urban landscape. In conjunction with this course, the Green Lab is sponsoring a small developer’s bootcamp, tentatively scheduled for March 16, which will be an opportunity for those beyond the studio class to learn about fine grain development and how to engage in developer activities. More information on this will be available early in the new year.

    Technology Partners. We have formed relationships with Opportunity Space and Local Data, two corporations already doing work in Louisville to leverage data and technology solutions. Both organizations are interested in the Green Lab work and integrating our data and spatial analysis into their platforms in different ways. We hope to leverage these relationships to increase the impact of Metro’s contracts with each.

    Metro Preservation + Development. We are excited about the recent announcement of Metro’s goal to increase the effectiveness of preservation efforts within the context of broader development goals. The shared action agenda, developed in our Better Building Reuse Louisville work could contribute significantly to this effort.

    Stay tuned for more updates on the Heart of Louisville Treasure work.

  • Some of Louisville’s Most Historic Assets Catch Fire

    July 20, 2015

    In an unfortunate turn of events for revitalization efforts along Main Street, some of Louisville’s most iconic historic assets caught fire in what was ruled to be an accident. On July 7, firefighters battled into the morning hours against a 3-alarm blaze affecting three addresses that were part of a loft, retail, and office development. Though the fire is definitely a setback to redevelopment efforts on Main Street, it also illustrates just how much Louisville’s older buildings are valued not only as irreplaceable historic assets, but as key pieces of the city’s future.

    As Stephanie K. Meeks penned in an op-ed last week, this is not the first time that Whiskey Row has faced adversity – nor will it be the last. Preservation is a movement in motion, and we must continually seek new solutions to threats from development pressure, accidents, and natural disasters. The key to our success will be in our ability to adapt – we are fighting to weave older buildings and neighborhoods into the vision of a vibrant, sustainable future so that when they are threatened, there is a shared understanding of the importance to step up and protect them.

    At the Preservation Green Lab, our research has shown the value that older everyday buildings (like those that once stood all up and down West Main Street) contribute significantly to the unique quality of life that makes cities homes and neighborhoods special. It will be nearly impossible to build a strong local economy, engaged public, and healthy population without them. Our work in Louisville will continue to underscore these points so that the city can continue to grow and thrive on the foundation of its past. To quote Stephanie’s editorial, "The historic structures of this distinctive neighborhood are not just a reflection of Louisville's past – they are assets that can be leveraged to strengthen the city's economic future. This fire does not undermine their potential, or our resolve. A century and a half since its story began, Whiskey Row's future remains full of promise."

  • Green Lab Hosts Design Charrette in Louisville

    July 13, 2015

    As Louisville’s city officials continue to prepare for the downtown Omni development, it came to light that the current contract requires the delivery of a cleared site when the hand-off of the land occurs this winter. After the demolitions in May, this leave three structures in limbo – two buildings that made up an office complex for the Louisville Water Company in the first half of the 20th century and have sat vacant for many years, and a currently-occupied historic building used as office space for the city parking authority.

    The Water Company Buildings were the subject of press conference held by Mayor Greg Fischer, where he declared city funds would be made available for the reuse and relocation of the structures. He called for public support in finding a solution, preferably a public or private site within 6-7 blocks of the current location. Metro placed a 30-day deadline on finding a solution.

    In response to this call, the Green Lab and local partners gathered architects, developers, real estate and finance experts, preservationists, and local stakeholders together to participate in a professionally-guided design charrette. This process, a tool often deployed in planning and architecture, brings together stakeholders and professionals to solve a specific problem through team workshopping. On June 18, over 40 people came together to work through the obstacles to reusing the oldest of the two Water Company Buildings.

    Five teams developed designs for reuse and relocation of the building – four groups developed plans for moving the structure to sites within the Mayor’s 6-7 block radius and one group focused on how the Omni development might be able to incorporate the structure. Each group delivered a feasible proposal with potential development partners, initial designs, and baseline cost analysis.

    An open house was held at the end of the day to display the initial sketches, which was attended by local media outlets, representatives from Louisville Metro, and other interested residents. An initial report was delivered that weekend to the Fischer administration, to meet the original 30-day deadline for a proposed solution. As of July 13, the Green Lab had not heard from the city as to their interest in any initial design idea.

    A final report will be compiled and publicized within the month. Preservation Green Lab will continue to work with Louisville Metro on finding the right solution, including exploration of these five ideas. Hopefully the day’s events will be a tool that Metro can continue to use to tackle development obstacles and opportunities – bringing Louisville onto the national stage of cities working closely with their residents to develop mutually beneficial solutions.

  • Demolition of Small Scale Commercial Downtown Underscores Importance of Green Lab Work

    April 16, 2015

    On Thursday of last week, the National Trust learned of the Louisville Metro Government’s intentions to demolish two buildings on a block in the Central Business District that is slated to be developed by Omni Hotels in the near future. A report was released by the city citing that the buildings had deteriorated, under their supervision, to the point that they were a danger to the public. Their facades were hastily demolished on Saturday – leaving no opportunity for salvage or compromise.

    Our Heart of Louisville cannot be focused on demolition fights over individual buildings, however in this instance, the haste with which action was taken shows a lack of understanding that older, everyday buildings are the backbone of successful, sustainable economic development. Though the National Trust offered in this instance to provide Preservation Funds for an additional structural review, our intention is not to get involved in every local demolition fight. Read more about the Trust’s offer and the subsequent demolition.

    We will continue our work promoting innovative approaches to building reuse, making sure that reuse is viable and easier, and supporting (with data and research) the economic and social contributions that older fabric makes to livability in Louisville.

    However, we will continue to use this as example of short sightedness on the part of the city. We can all argue about the merit and worth of various individual buildings in the face of potential progress downtown. However, our research has shown that older, everyday buildings are the backbone of a visually interesting, inspiring urban landscape – a landscape that supports a strong local economy based in entrepreneurial opportunities, pedestrian activity, and human-scale streets. Letting buildings like this go – regardless of their individual value – goes against national urban design best practices and should be more than a preservation fight. Read more about why this is a missed opportunity for the future of downtown Louisville.

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