Market Review | Louisville is experiencing an economic boom with $11 billion in investments

By Abby Laub

Smart growth is the key to keeping Louisville authentic yet forward thinking.
Smart growth is the key to keeping Louisville authentic yet forward thinking.

Louisville is a city on the move. With nearly 1.5 million residents in the metro area, Louisville is a competitive, inclusive, global city –
one that is strategic about growing
jobs in the knowledge economy and around innovation.

The city boasts the largest concentration of aging care headquarters in the nation as well as headquarters of some of the world’s largest restaurant operations. With a focus on IT support and coding, many of Louisville’s companies are rapidly growing. The city continues to lead the way in its long-standing strengths in advanced manufacturing and logistics.

Many cities tout growth and achievement, but Louisville has numbers to back it up: Since 2014, the city has experienced more than $11 billion in investment in infrastructure, project development and distilleries, including a $300 million Omni Hotel and a $200 million expansion of the downtown convention center. Louisville has been chosen as a Google Fiber City and Forbes just recognized Louisville as the number one city in the U.S. for manufacturing.

In the summer of 2016, Mayor Greg Fischer was named the most innovative mayor in America by a Politico survey of mayors, and TIME magazine called Louisville a place of “free-wheeling innovation” and growth. ZipRecruiter named Louisville a Top 10 city for jobseekers in 2017, particularly in the industries of automotive, healthcare and retail. Most recently, NationSwell listed Fischer as a top 5 good governing
mayor for his policies and programs to make the city more compassionate, to improve education and to create “good paying” jobs.

In 2014, Fischer created Louisville Forward, an integrated approach to economic and community development. Louisville Forward combines business attraction, expansion and retention activities, and talent and workforce attraction, with all of the city’s real estate development, land use and planning
and design functions to present a
unified solution for job growth and quality of place.

With Fischer’s vision at the helm, the entire team at Louisville Forward works closely with other government and economic development agencies to ensure growth is happening in a way that makes sense for the entire region’s future, and that it’s spread throughout all of Louisville’s unique neighborhoods, making sense for residents, businesses, non-profits and visitors alike.

In fact, some of Louisville’s “edge” neighborhoods, those whose boundaries touch the central business district, are what many find the most unique about the bustling city. These communities that provide something for everyone
feel tucked away, but a robust transportation and road network, and
the Olmsted-designed park system,
serve to not only connect them easily but put both the heart of downtown and beautiful neighborhoods within easy driving distance.

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, chief of Louisville Forward, talked about these neighborhoods and how they make the city special.

“Our city has the privilege and opportunity to have a diverse landscape and population,” she said. “We work with citizens from all corners of our city with equity and compassion to invest public dollars across the city so that, as our mayor says, every resident has the opportunity to reach their full
human potential.”

Strategic growth is happening, she said, and is a catalyst for even more investment. For example, Louisville was recently awarded a nearly $30 million CHOICE grant from HUD to transform the historic Russell neighborhood. “We know that this public investment will lead to private investment and spill
over into other neighborhoods,” Wiederwohl said.

Russell, on the west side of the city, is one of several areas that are undergoing a transformation.

“From west Louisville neighborhoods like Russell and Portland, to Germantown/Schnitzelburg, Shelby Park, Butchertown and Smoketown, these neighborhoods form a crescent around our downtown core and are seeing growth in housing, retail, office space and restaurants,” she said.

These communities and others boast a mixed housing stock to attract a diverse range of people and allow economic development to expand into new corridors and neighborhoods.

“Recent public and private investments are bringing a mixed-use, mixed-income quality to our edge neighborhoods,” Wiederwohl said.

The redevelopment of these edge neighborhoods shores up older buildings, saving unique architecture that makes these spaces and neighborhoods authentic, and celebrates the city’s historic roots.

Residents and businesses alike are investing in these buildings, giving them new life and creating a new sense of place. With this kind of investment taking place in the edge neighborhoods, other investment follows, which means job opportunities and improvements in neighborhood infrastructure. And developers are taking note.

A number of local developers have been the pioneers in these older neighborhoods, and are investing in new projects, such as hotels, apartments, work spaces and neighborhood-serving retail.

“Louisville is fortunate to have a strong development community who shares a similar vision for Louisville’s future,” said Wiederwohl.

Wiederwohl spoke about the overall $11 billion investment and how it plays into the city’s strategic planning.

“As we work with the community to update our Comprehensive Plan, which will guide public and private decisions about future growth and preservation, we will be incorporating values such as authenticity, sustainability and equity so that our plan is prepared to serve all citizens and to adapt to a greener future, while maintaining the unique character of our neighborhoods. Additional plans such as Sustain Louisville, Vision Louisville, Move Louisville, and Healthy Louisville 2020 all contribute to the mayor’s vision and to the everyday and long term actions of city employees to provide our citizens with a better quality of life.”

In a plan that touches many topics and will affect every resident in the metropolitan area, Louisville Forward knows the Comprehensive Plan needs an intensive community engagement effort. Over the past year, more than 100 public meetings have been held and staff has given presentations to groups of all kinds, including issuing surveys and collaborating with suburban cities to ultimately produce a plan that sets the city on a path to smart growth. 

Strategic growth is crucial to sustain all of the construction and investment happening. There are concerns to
keep in mind like building too much too fast. 

“We are mindful of our growth and use data and research to inform our decision making,” Wiederwohl noted. “In addition, when creating the plans mentioned, we always look ahead to what sustainable development means for our city and neighborhoods. From new hotels developed in our downtown to preserving the beautiful Victorian architecture in Old Louisville and historic shotguns across our city, we understand that while building new, we must also preserve and maintain the assets that make our community unique.”

Join the momentum, visit louisvilleky.gov/louisvilleforward.

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