Thursday, March 29, 2007

2006 Census Estimates

The Census Bureau reently released their annual county population estimates for 2006. Here is how the Louisville area shaped up.

Louisville Metropolitan Statistical Area
Indiana Counties
Clark - 103,569 +1,944
Floyd - 72,570 +545
Washington - 28,062 +252
Harrison - 36,992 +263

Kentucky Counties
Jefferson - 701,500 +2,449
Bullitt - 72,851 +1,411
Oldham - 55,285 +1,826
Shelby - 39,717 +1,501
Henry - 16,025 +199
Meade - 27.992 -263
Nelson - 42,102 +1,036
Spencer - 16,475 +838
Trimble - 9,071 +38
TOTAL: 1,222,211 +12,039

Elizabethtown Metropolitan Statistical Area:
Hardin - 97,087 +262
Larue - 13,791 +128
TOTAL: 110,878 +390

Scottsburg Micropolitan Area
Scott - 23,704 -45

Louisville Combined Statistical Area: 1,356,793

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Iron Quarter

Todd Blue announced today that he and his company will soon invest more than 50 million dollars to build a mixed use office and retail complex in downtown Louisville. The project, to be named The Iron Quarter, will occupy the block bounded by West Main to the south, Washington to the north, First to the east and Second to the west. This plan replaces an earlier redevelopment plan that had been hatched in 2000 by another local developer.

Blue sees huge changes for the property, including a 14 story office tower (that can be expanded to 23 floors if the need arises), a parking garage, retail space, restaurant space, and bar space. The project will be largely pedestrian oriented and will help bridge the new Louisville Arena to residential development in the West Main neighborhood.

The project will require the demolition of the interiors of the buildings, but all the historic facades will remain and be restored to their original lustre. Some people are critical of this practice, but I feel it is perfectly acceptable. Buildings have to constantly change to be usable - and these buildings simply do not have floor plans that still work for the uses of today. The main consideration is for the facades of the buildings - and those will be perfectly restored. You will never be able to tell that the buildings ever fell into disrepair and they will look as if they had been continually used for more than a century.

The most exciting aspect of the project is perhaps one of the smaller components - the retail. Retail has been lacking in downtown for decades, and this is the first project that promises at least some retailing options such as clothing, gaming, home decor, et cetera, in the CBD. Hopefully this portends of things to come.

This announcement is incredibly exciting for Louisville. This block was one of the very last major eyesores of downtown. And it has been a constant reminder of how much work downtown still has to do to revive itself.

Monday, March 19, 2007

News in Brief

Kentucky Home Life Gets a Makeover
Business First of Louisville is reporting this week that the historic Kentucky Home Life Building will be seeing new owners and new investment. In their article, they are reporting that the 19 floor structure will change hand officially next week to a group of local investors. The investors are reportedly planning on investing upwards of 12 million dollars in the old structure. The building will be turned into a mixed-use structure, as the bottom floor will marketed at retail, the middles floors will turn into office condos, and the top 2 floors will be renovated into 8 penthouse units, selling for 500,000 dollars or more.

UofL Center for Predictive Medicine to Break Ground Next Month
The University of Louisville held one of the last public "Question and Answer" sessions relating to the new Center for Predictive Medicine that is being build on the Shelby Campus off of Shelbyville Road. The center, which will be in full operation in early 2009, will study many of the viral and bacterial agents that have been identified as possible bio terrorism threats. Residents of the area have been very concerned since UofL announced this project nearly 2 years ago. Despite the economic benefits and health breakthroughs this center could pioneer, locals are still vociferously opposing it. The center has already received all needed zoning clearances, and it will be a partner with the CDC, which helped UofL design the facility and it's safety checks. The site is 1 of 14 that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has helped to fund since September 11, 2001.

New Albany's Scribner Place Enters New Phase
New Albany, Indiana's new Scribner Place project has moved into the next phase of construction - much to the chagrin of downtown locals. Scribner Place is a local government initiative in downtown New Albany to build a new YMCA and help kick start the rebirth of the city's core. With support pilings finally installed, the incessant clanging of metal being beaten into the earth can stop. The foundation is being laid this month and the metal skeleton will begin to rise in April. Project leaders expect to have the building ready for swimming lessons and weight lifting in Fall of 2008. Other parcels of land around Scribner Place, which are owned by the city, will go on the market in the coming months, with the hopes that local developers will step forward with plans for more downtown retail and housing.

Fourth Street Live! Get 2 New Occupants
Fourth Street Live, the downtown retail and entertainment complex, announced last week that in addition to the new upscale Hotel Lounge they're adding to the complex's first level, they will also be adding two new bars to the upper level. Angel's Rock Bar and Tengo Sed Cantina will occupy space in the former Palm Bar and Parrot Beach Club. Those bars, along with Red Cheetah, were evicted last month after their parent company filed for bankruptcy. All 3 new bars will up and running before he crowds of Derby rush to town.

Also, be on the look for details of the pending Fourth Street Live expansion. It's already been announced they're close to inking a deal with the Starks Building for more space, and they're also in negotiations with the mayor about building a large addition on the former Water Company site. Stay tuned for that mega development.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Playing With Crime

So, I've been pretty busy here of late and haven't been really able to post much - which is unfortunate because I really wanted to keep his more current, but that's the way it goes sometime I suppose.

Anyway, I have been thinking about national crime trends recently, and some of them are worrisome. For a whole slew of reasons, experts are thinking we're heading toward another violent crime surge. Hopefully this will be averted, but that is yet to be seen.

I have always felt very safe in Louisville. In very few parts of town have I ever felt uneasy or worried about violence against me - but I have found I am an anomaly. Most people seem to always be worried about the next mugger or murderer who is just around the corner. I usually disregard those people as too easily swayed by the sensationalism they find on WAVE 3 or WLKY. But to make sure I wasn't the foolish one, I wanted some facts and figures to see which way violent crime is moving in Louisville, and perhaps some comparison to other areas.
Violent Crime Numbers from 2005 for Louisville-Jefferson County:

Forcible Rape: 209
Robbery: 1,822
Murder: 55
Aggravated Assault: 1,810

Violent Crime Numbers from 2006 for Louisville-Jefferson County:

Forcible Rape: 217
Robbery: 1,762
Murder: 51
Aggravated Assault: 1,867
TOTAL - 3,897
Based on violent crimes (the ones people are truly scared of) we can see that between 2005 and 2006, Louisville saw no significant changes in it's crime rate - for the better or the worse. (Which is surprising, considering last Fall there were a slew of stories saying how Louisville had fallen into the depths of a massive new crime wave, with robberies being on a major upswing. - that proved false, like so many stories related to crime from the local media)

With the above numbers, we find Louisville having a crime rate of 557.3 incidents of violent crime in 2005 for every 100,000 inhabitants. In 2006 the rate is 557.5 incidents per 100,000 inhabitants. Not a significant change. When compared to other peer cities, we see Louisville ain't doing half bad (2005):

Indianapolis: 989.7
Nashville: 1,602.5
Memphis: 1,857.2
Cincinnati: 1,184.5
Columbus: 837.6
Louisville: 557.3

Again, keep in mind, these are VIOLENT CRIME RATES, not total crime rates. (I tried to pick cities that are near the same size as Louisville, and also encompass at least some suburbs)

The data helped to reinforce my general feelings about crime in Louisville versus other cities - It's not the absolute best place, but it is definitely a safer city than most other peer cities. Memphis particularly amazes me - that is just out of control! Their violent crime rate is obscene.

Besides comparing Louisville to other cities, I also was interested in seeing if the old stereotype is true that the West End is the WORST place in Louisville for violent crime. Surprisingly enough, it was not the worst according to 2006 numbers from Louisville Metro Police - but it was pretty close.

Louisville is divided into 8 Police Divisions, and they encompass the following areas:

The First Division includes the following neighborhoods: Butchertown, Downtown,
Phoenix Hill, Portland and Russell.

The Second Division includes: California, Chickasaw, Hallmark, Park Duvall, Park Hill, Parkland and Shawnee.

The Third Division includes: Auburndale, Iroquois, Iroquois Park, Kenwood Hill, Southland Park and Southside.

The Fourth Division includes: Fairgrounds, Germantown, Iroquois, Limerick, Merriwether, Old Louisville, Schnitzelburg, Shelby Park, South Louisville, University, Wilder Park and Wyandotte.

The Fifth Division include: Belknap, Bonnycastle, Bowman, Brownsboro Zorn, Cherokee Triangle, Clifton, Clifton Heights, Crescent Hill, Highlands, Highlands Douglass, Irish Hill, and Tyler Park.

The Sixth Division includes the following neighborhoods: Audubon, Bashford Manor,
Bon Air, Camp Taylor, Edgewood, Highland Park, Hikes Point, Klondike, Poplar
Level, Prestonia, Saint Joseph, and Standiford.

The Seventh Division includes the following neighborhoods: Fern Creek, Highview and Okolona.

The Eighth Division includes the following neighborhoods: Barbourmeade,
Bellemeade, Briarwood, Douglass Hills, Glenview, Goose Creek, Hurstbourne,
Lyndon, Middletown, Rolling Hills, Westwood, Wildwood, Woodland Hills and
Worthington Hills.

I was surprised to see that according to LMPD, it was the Fourth Division that had he highest number of incidents of violent crime. To me, the Fourth Division is the "South End" of town. With 1,879 incicents of violent crime, it stood well above the "West End" - Second Division - total of 1,302 incidents.

Another surprise to me was to see that the safest division was not some far-flung suburban division, but was the Fifth Division that serves the inner-city neighborhoods of the Highlands and Clifton. With only 407 reported crimes last year, it was "safer" than the Eighth Division which includes the stereotypically safest parts of town like Hurstborne and Middletown.

Overall, the data supported my generally notions of crime in Louisville, with some unexpected surprises. Crime is a social ill that the community must strive to reduce to the lowest levels possible by building a city that offers basic education to all citizens, a job that offers a full day of work for a fair wage, and bestows dignity and respect to all people, regardless of race, economic status, age, religion, or sexual preference. Louisville isn't going to ever be perfect, but these are ideals and things that we certainly can do -now- if we all just wanted to do it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Museum Plaza Gets Government Nod

In typical Kentucky style, the state legislature is down to the wire in passing major bills - and one of those major bills is the one supporting the Museum Plaza project in downtown Louisville. Amazingly enough it has now passed both chambers of the legislature is on it's way to the desk of the governor.

Thank God.

In recent days things seemed to not be going well for the Museum Plaza bill - it wasn't taken up by the Senate quickly, and the Senate President said initially he has some misgivings about the law. However, he ended up championing the bill and it passed his chamber with only 1 vote in opposition. House and Senate leaders patted themselves on the back and explained how this building is not going to only transform the skyline of Louisville, but will help the reputation of the entire state of Kentucky.

Governor Fletcher has already said he will sign the bill into law, and developers of Museum Plaza have commented that this project is a slam dunk with this law. Shovels will be turning dirt by late summer.


So. I've been pretty busy this week, and have not blogged in quite awhile.

And tonight I have no time either, but The Urbanophile has several interesting stories about Louisville in his blog this week - check it out.

Friday, March 02, 2007

UofL Health Campus' New Masterplan

The University of Louisville health campus in downtown Louisville is one of the great economic engines of the region. Inside those buildings, researchers have pioneered such medical breakthroughs as the first hand transplants, are on the cutting edge of mechanical hearts, and are American leaders in the research of full face transplants. Researchers and doctors at the health campus are truly making a difference for the community and the field of medicine.

That is why it is important to give this complex of research and patient care buildings a new vision for growth in the future; and last week UofL did just that with a new strategic master plan for the downtown campus.

The original master plan was crafted nearly 15 years ago, and has been a good document from which to base the growth of the campus, but times have changed and the needs of today are different from the early 1990's. By the year 2027, the campus is expected to double in size, and to accommodate the growth, some changes are going to be made in the area.

One major new component of the campus will be a pedestrian-only corridor to replace a secluded alley and loading dock area. Along this new pedestrian corridor, you will find a small "urban forest" to give patients a secluded location to get away and meditate. There are also 10 new buildings that have been identified for the future, several of which are already under construction or in the planning process. Currently there are several large surface lots that are expected to become buildings in the future, and to replace those lost parking spots, two more parking structures are proposed. Along with those new strucures, the new VA Hospital is expected to be built in the UofL campus. A southern gateway is also to be built as to better differentiate the campus from the surrounding area.

Right now UofL has several new buildings under construction in the campus - including two research buildings and one patient care complex that will be used by doctors from University Hospital. The years to come, however, promise even larger changes.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Museum Plaza Passes Major Hurdle

Museum Plaza, the 465 million dollar riverfront skyscraper, passed a major hurdle in the Kentucky House of Representatives today. The House passed a needed tax bill that will allow Museum Plaza to capture a percentage of hotel room taxes that would normally be funneled to programs to promote tourism in the city of Louisville.

Before the tax bill becomes law, it must pass the state Senate and be signed by the governor - but the House passed the bill overwhelmingly and the Senate is expected to simply rubber stamp the bill and Gov. Fletcher has already indicated he would do anything possible to get this building built. This vote came as somewhat of a surprise, as many people expected the vote to be closer, mainly due to the negative coverage that was provided in the Courier-Journal.

The bill faced stiff opposition from state hoteliers, who claimed this bill would set a precedent and allow state hotel tax dollars to be siphoned away from their organizations. However, in the case of this bill, the legislation was limited to a small portion of only Louisville, only affects city hotel taxes, NOT state hotel taxes, and only affects projects over 200 million dollars. Other hoteliers simply do not want to compete with a Westin and want no one taking even a single dollar to which they feel they're entitled.

With this vote, it appears all but certain that Museum Plaza will break ground in late summer or early fall...bring it on.