Firing up Louisville’s Downtown

Journalism 101: It ain't annual until the second one.

They had a little breakfast/pep rally for downtown development this morning at the Seelbach, releasing a bunch of new numbers detailing how well we’re doing compared to cities like Nashville, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

U of L’s Paul Coomes compiled the data, and presented it along with the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation’s Alan DeLisle. Coomes mentioned, and it bears repeating, that it marked sort of a public return for DeLisle and staff member Patti Clare, injured in a scary, life-threatening accident last year.

The breakfast was attended by about 300 folks interested in seeing downtown grow, from members of the Metro Council (David Tandy, Tina Ward-Pugh and Jerry Miller) to GLI and the CVB to some other important folks making things happen, like Gill Holland and Tyler Allen.

A tie-free Mayor Fischer opened the proceedings, saying that downtown growth is important and sticking in a plug for the 55,000 Degrees focus on education, before saying that we’re doing a whole lot better than Cleveland and not as good as Houston. He advocated a “new way” of leadership, focusing on a future when we might look back and talk about how Louisville went a different route than Rust Belt or Sun Belt cities. Essentially, it was a pep talk.

The LDDC released its report a day early to the C-J, which highlighted the positive news that downtown job growth (2009 stats) is outpacing 14 similar cities. 40 percent of those jobs are in healthcare, education and government.  I’d like to know how we added 3,613 public administration jobs downtown.  Still, most of the cities in the study suffered negative job growth in their downtowns, while Louisville managed to grow by 12 percent between 2002 and 2009, and pay for those jobs is better than $53K.

The report showed people still aren’t buying housing downtown, as Louisville ranked dead last among the cities in the rate of home ownership at 5 percent. Most downtown households are devoted to publicly assisted housing.

To get everyone fired up, the report concluded with a list of a dozen catalysts for downtown. Among them – the expansion of South 4th Street into an “urban retail marketplace” and capitalizing on developing a bourbon experience (no mention of the state’s despicable taxation policy on its premier product). The goals focus on growth of downtown medical properties, market-rate housing, partnerships with universities and buisness incubation.

It even mentions the Museum Plaza project (remember that?) and of course has a pie-in-the-sky ambition of funding the Ohio River Bridge Project.

A fancy report and big pep rally isn’t going to make these things happen, but talking about them and dreaming about the possibilities is a starting point.