Last week, some 40 builders, government employees and Louisville residents tackled this big-picture question: What should housing developments in Jefferson County look like during the next two decades?
The work group, which meets at least once a month, is laying the foundation for how the city will address housing development in its new 20-year comprehensive plan. Five other work groups also are meeting regularly to set goals related to mobility, public facilities, economic growth, livability and environment, and policies related to maintaining the character of various neighborhoods.
“The comprehensive plan is intended to manage change,” said Chuck Kavanaugh, former head of the Building Industry Association of Greater Louisville and one of the housing committee participants.
Few residents, for example, would want a company to buy land next to their neighborhood and erect a large industrial building. As city planners say, the uses aren’t compatible.
To mitigate the chance of this happening, the Louisville Development Code sets out standards for development.
Development downtown differs vastly from suburban development, and therefore different rules are needed to dictate what can and cannot be built where. To honor neighborhoods’ distinctive needs, the city created 11 different form districts, including the Downtown Form District, the Suburban Workplace Form District and the Traditional Neighborhood Form District.
The idea for these form districts came out of Cornerstone 2020, the city’s current 20-year comprehensive plan, according to Jeff O’Brien, deputy director of Advanced Planning. And that plan was created after numerous meetings in which residents, government officials and stakeholders were asked how they wanted to shape Louisville’s future.
The comprehensive plan offers broad objectives and recommendations that government leaders then use to guide tangible policy changes. As 2020 nears, Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government is working to revamp Cornerstone 2020 to look forward to 2040.
Many attended the meeting last week because they work in the housing industry building multifamily developments or single-family subdivisions, or are advocates for affordable housing, or work with housing developers daily in their jobs with Louisville Metro Planning and Design Services.
Each week, the attendees drill down further into a topic. For instance, at the housing meeting last week, groups set objectives related to goals that they’d voted on the month prior, including maintaining a diverse range of housing options, ensuring Louisville has affordable housing options and encouraging neighborhoods where jobs, housing and retail are in close proximity.
The objectives presented at the meeting included: encourage walkability and increased tree canopy; promote the reuse of existing buildings rather than building new; reduce parking requirements in some areas; and increase density of housing in areas where housing already exists rather than developing untouched land.
Although the comprehensive plan isn’t an enforceable document, the city can help incentivize certain types of development if it meets the objectives set out in the comprehensive plan. The city should not force developers to build certain types of projects, several attendees said, but should encourage them to fund and build projects that bring jobs, retail and residential together.
Although it’s a somewhat extreme example — in West Louisville, the city plans to use federal investment to entice private developers to construct privately funded residential and commercial projects in the depressed Russell neighborhood.
The city created a plan called Vision Russell detailing how it hopes to revitalize the West Louisville neighborhood. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced in December that Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government would receive $30 million in federal funding to create a mixed-income housing development, park, community pool and other public features — all part of the Vision Russell plan.
The hope is that the city will be able to leverage HUD’s investment to attract new businesses, jobs and amenities to the Russell neighborhood.
How Russell is developed will be guided both by Vision Russell and the comprehensive plan.
The next meeting related to housing is set for 6 p.m. Jan. 19 at The Edison Center, 701 W. Ormsby Ave. Anyone is allowed to attend, though people are encouraged to fill out a form with their contact information and the committee they’d like to join ahead of time. Meeting times and dates for the other five committees also are listed online.
“It’s not too late,” O’Brien said. “We are still empowering people to participate.”