There’s still no estimated timeline for when work will begin on Waterfront Park Phase IV, or even when fundraising efforts will get underway in earnest.
“The most important thing is to try to identify a champion. You need a person who can devote time and who is well-connected with the financial side of the community to be able to amass that much money,” said Mike Kimmel, deputy director of the Waterfront Development Corp., which develops and manages Waterfront Park.
For the first phases of Waterfront Park, that person was Humana co-founder David Jones Sr., he said.
The ability to raise the $35 million needed to pay for the 22-acre expansion of Waterfront Park into West Louisville will dictate when shovels hit the ground. In addition to private dollars, the Waterfront Development Corp. will seek funding from the state’s capital budget and from the city.
“It just depends on when money comes in,” Kimmel said. “It’s really hard to say.”
The only money raised to date for the expansion is the nearly $1 million that Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government allocated during this fiscal year for continued project planning, he said.
Waterfront Park Phase IV stretches along the riverfront from 10th to 15th streets, greening up a currently desolate area along the river. It will include plenty of green space, a large fountain, walking trails, biking paths and play areas, among other features.
“Look around here. We can do better than this,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who called the existing section of Waterfront Park, Louisville’s front yard and “a tremendous source of pride” for the city.
Leaders have pitched it as an economic development and tourism driver. One study, Kimmel said, indicated that Waterfront Park already generates $12.6 million in taxes from nearly $91 million in secondary sales.
During a press conference about the progress of the project, Kimmel said it could take six years or longer to complete the entire expansion, and it would likely be done in phases as the finances come together.
At least one part of the project won’t be able to get underway for roughly three years.
Metropolitan Sewer District purchased 4.8 acres of land along the waterfront where it will construct a 13,800-foot-long tunnel basin 200 feet underground that will hold overflow from the sewer system. MSD paid $1.5 million for the land, according to property records.
Brian Bingham, MSD’s chief operations manager, said the tunnel basin would hold up to 37 million gallons.
Work will begin in late summer, and it will take about three years to complete, he said. As different aspects wrap up, MSD will turn ownership of about three acres of property to the Waterfront Development Corp. The remainder will be used by MSD to monitor and maintain the tunnel basin and to house a pump station.
“In the end, this isn’t about our project,” he said. “This is about how we can help Waterfront Development Corp. grow this wonderful park system along the river and make a public amenity that is unlike any other.”
Below shows multiple renderings of what the Waterfront Park expansion could look like. However, Kimmel said the renderings aren’t final.
For example, he noted, a pier proposed as part of the project that would allow people to walk out over the Ohio River would either be scaled back or eliminated. The concern is that if it floods, water may cover the pier and boats could run into it.
When asked if they’d thought about incorporating a soccer stadium into the expansion, Kimmel said: “A soccer stadium in a floodplain? I think that’s probably the best reason not to.”