The $13.4 million NuLu streetscape project is slowly chugging along, with the design going through its final public feedback session Tuesday.
“I think this is great for business, great for the neighborhood. We are anxious to move forward,” said Rick Murphy, owner of Jeb Advertising and a member of the NuLu Streetscape Steering Committee.
The project has continued to face delay after delay. Work originally was set to start in December 2015, but landscape architect John Carman told Insider Louisville in October 2015 that state and local “bureaucracies” were holding up progress.
The steering committee and other parties worked a long time to create a design that the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District would approve of, Murphy said, and the committee worked with the State Historic Preservation Office for more than a year.
Plus, there was a change in state leadership in November 2015, when Gov. Matt Bevin was elected, Murphy said. “We had a change in governor, and we wanted to make sure what we do, everybody is happy with it.”
Development of the streetscape plan was then on hold for six months, before work restarted on it in February. In the end, Murphy said he saw the delay as a positive.
“If we had this project going on the same time as the Bridges Project, I am not sure our businesses would have survived, because we have small businesses that really need local support, and we’ve been able to bring those people, those customers in” with events, Murphy said. The task would have been substantially harder had East Market Street been under construction, he noted.
Since February, there had been little in the way of updates, but Tuesday, residents and business owners were given the chance to see an aerial overview of the design that showed where trees would be planted, where water infiltration gardens would be placed and where bike rack, benches and other features would be installed.
As previously reported, the project will include East Market Street from Brook Street to Baxter Avenue. The goals of the streetscape redesign are to make the NuLu neighborhood more green, slow down traffic and make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
New elements shown at Tuesday’s informal meeting included metal shadow panels that feature a goat and pig — a call back to the days when East Market Street was where people went to buy and sell livestock — and trolley benches that pay homage to the trolleys that traveled Louisville’s streets, as well as the monthly trolley hop.
“There is a much stronger tie to the culture and this history of the corridor” in the design, said John Carman, founder of Carman, the landscape architecture firm working on the NuLu streetscape redesign.
Murphy, who is a fifth-generation Louisvillian, said he appreciates the historic touches.
“Keeping those historic elements around all the markets and the East Market District. I think that is important. I want to see that connection,” Murphy said. “They honor the history of the neighborhood.”
While residents and business owners seemed to like the improvements overall, a few expressed concerns about trees blocking their business facades and signs, as well as possible parking problems as the angled parking spaces are eliminated.
A representative from the Mayan Cafe said she was concerned about where the restaurant’s employees would park but liked the changes in general. “There’s a price you pay,” she said.
Despite the delays, Murphy and Carl Malysz, deputy executive director of strategic planning with the Louisville Downtown Partnership, both said they were confident that work on the project would go out for bid in summer 2017.
The project must go through a joint review by the city, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and federal transportation officials, Malysz said. That is expected to happen during the first half of 2017.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has committed $10 million to the NuLu streetscape project, while the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District and the federal government will contribute $1.9 million and $1.5 million.