Louisville skyline

Resilient Louisville, released this week to the public, is intended as a roadmap to improving the city’s overall resilience. | Courtesy of Resilient Louisville

In the culmination of a three-year process, Louisville’s first resilience strategy, titled Resilient Louisville, was released to the public this week as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative.

The comprehensive plan is described as a “roadmap” toward adapting city systems and institutions in the face of future challenges, both seen and unforeseen. The plan includes an actionable set of visions, goals and targets in an effort to better withstand future difficulties and circumstances.

Findings led Resilient Louisville toward a focus on social and economic equity as a way to become stronger.

The downloadable Resilient Louisville, which is 98 pages long, is the result of nearly 3,000 Louisvillians’ ideas and recommendations, supported by a 38-person steering committee consisting of public, private, academic and nonprofit community leaders.

Louisville was chosen as one of 100 cities to be accepted into the Rockefeller Foundation’s initiative in 2016, joining international cities such as Paris, Seoul and Toronto, as well as American cities from Atlanta to Boston.

Eric Friedlander

Eric Friedlander

Hired in 2017 to lead the initiative as Chief Resilience Officer, Eric Friedlander said the strategic plan proposes an integrated response to various urban vulnerabilities.

“Resilient Louisville is the culmination of the process to cultivate partnerships and develop actions that increase Louisville’s resilience,” Friedlander said in a news release. “It is also the beginning of a greater citywide commitment to continue to collaborate, form new partnerships and design new initiatives in a process that will contribute to a safer and stronger Louisville.”

The plan is designed in part so that it reinforces the goals in Mayor Greg Fischer’s Strategic Plan for Louisville’s Growth and Prosperity, officials said. In first determining the direction of the strategic plan, participants and community leaders concluded that “resilience equals equity, compassion and trust,” adding that a key goal is to ensure all Louisvillians have “equitable opportunities to thrive.”

The findings were that some of Louisville’s greatest strengths are community, neighborhoods, culture, opportunity and networks, while its greatest barriers are communication, infrastructure, resources and oppression.

Resilient Louisville was divided into four visions: Embrace Lifelong Learning, Ensure a Safe and Healthy City, Build a Vibrant Economy and Place, and Maximize Innovation and Civic Engagement.

The first, Embrace Lifelong Learning, focuses on equitable education with the development and retention of an educated and talented workforce. Ensure a Safe and Healthy City sets forth goals to address the needs of general health and overall safety. Build a Vibrant Economy and Place focuses on goals to ensure inclusive and equitable economic growth, and the final vision is about cultivating social change and great community cohesion.

Ninth Street

Downtown Louisville’s Ninth Street is identified in the plan as a physical manifestation of a social and economic divide. | Courtesy of Resilient Louisville

The document’s executive summary states that the participants in shaping the strategy identified “economic exclusion based on race” as one of Louisville’s major challenges, citing a physical manifestation of this as “the Ninth Street divide.”

This refers to the construction of Ninth in the 1950s and 1960s as a major thoroughfare, which essentially divided west Louisville from east.

“This divide creates ‘deep roots of inequity’ significantly impacting quality of life and economic development,” Resilient Louisville said.

Other major focal points were reacting to trauma, from incidents like the shootings of two people at a Jeffersontown Kroger in 2018 to the deadly Parkland protests in 1968, plus equity and economic opportunity.

This helped lead the steering committee toward those four key visions, which focus on strengthening the city as a whole.

Citing a 2017 American Community Survey Census, Resilient Louisville says 15% of the city’s population lived in poverty during a 2013-2017 period, a rate that was .4% higher than the national average. In addition, 22% of Louisvillians do not have high school diplomas.

Homicide rates among black males also were double that of all other race and ethnic categories combined in the first quarter of 2019, according to the Louisville Metro Police Department Uniform Crime Report.

The population breakdown among Louisville’s estimated 769,000-plus residents is 67% white, 21% black or African American, 5% Hispanic or Latino, 2.8% multiracial and 2.7% Asian.

Ethnicity chart

The strategy cites evidence of the city’s progress toward blurring the “Ninth Street divide” in efforts such as the $29.5 million Vision Russell initiative, SummerWorks youth job program, West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative and many others. Resilient Louisville, however, concludes more needs to be done:

“As in most American communities, the burdens of social and economic disadvantage and of ill health in Louisville fall disproportionately on certain population subgroups, especially people of color and other minorities.”

The four visions are broken into a variety of actionable initiatives, with “next steps” outlines and verbiage stating the importance and purpose of each.

One example among dozens is to create a Louisville Economic Mobility Lab that would, in part, “analyze city services, policies and programs that address economic stability to determine service and intervention effectiveness in terms of moving individuals toward stability and independence.”

Others range from strengthening the core of tech talent in the city to diverse plans such as addressing chronic issues leading to homelessness, establishing trauma response systems for children and families and further developing the Louisville Loop.

Resilient Louisville’s goal is to help better focus efforts to make Louisville more equitable and more prepared for coming changes, economically, socially and otherwise, across the city’s entire population.

“City resilience is about making a city better, in both good times and bad, for the benefit of all its citizens,” Fischer said in the news release. “We are stronger and more resilient when we work together. This strategy sets out long-term objectives and immediate actions that residents, communities and organizations can take to build a Louisville that can continue to thrive.”