Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Study says that downtown adds jobs, but work still needs to be done

According to the C-J a new report to be released later today says that downtown Louisville added jobs faster most of our peer cities. Using various data the researches show that Louisville's downtown worker grew by almost 12% from 2002-2009. That was the largest increase compared to all of our peer cities. Not to shabby.

However, downtown Louisville didn't fair as well when it came to housing, retail, and the number of fortune 500 companies in the center of the city. We ranked last when it came to homeownership rates and our median household income was only $14,733, and we all know about downtown Louisville's extreme lack of any retail. All in all the report pretty much reaffirms what most us already new, except maybe the number of jobs we added to downtown.

In the article in the C-J it was good to see Mayor Fischer talk about the need to attract more local retail businesses to downtown Louisville, especially the block south of Fourth Street Live. The city said that it will use the report to help attract more retail downtown and help develop market rate housing.

I wish the C-J had linked to the full report so I could have read it for myself, but from reading the article I do have a couple of thoughts. My first thought centers around downtown retail. I notice the article didn't mention any future projects. What ever happened to the Center City Project by the Coordish Group? Wasn't this suppose to be a great retail/housing development?

The argument against downtown retail I'm sure is lack of people living downtown and income, but that misses the larger picture. Namely that there are several Louisville neighborhoods that form the border of downtown Louisville that have virtually no retail. I think any plan to attract retail downtown should include these neighborhoods. How many people who live in western Louisville, the Highlands, Old Louisville, Irish Hill, Germantown, Butchertown, and Smoketown would rather shop in downtown Louisville than go across the bridge to Indiana?

I do like the focus on more market rate housing in downtown Louisville. Louisville doesn't have a wealthy enough population to sustain the typical condo/tower model. If we can get more affordable condos and apartments in the center city I think we would see a lot more people moving back downtown. Louisville could also mask the lack of housing downtown by investing more in the neighborhoods that surround town.  

I wish I could have a more detail critique of the report, but without reading it for myself that will just have to wait.

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