“Why don’t we build Topgolf in your backyard!” was one of the regular responses I heard after expressing my support in this column for the Topgolf project at Oxmoor Mall. Well, the proposed “One Park” project by developer Kevin Cogan is close enough to where I live… at least, l would pass it every day or two. Everyone in and around The Highlands would be affected by this development, potentially. We all should care about it.
Initially, I opposed the idea of three, giant towers jutting up over Cherokee Park. The design looked out of place. It was obvious it would bring too much traffic. The scale would fundamentally alter the look, feel and spirit of the neighborhood. It turns out that I may have been right, but my understanding of urban planning was wrong.
One Park is a winning project for Louisville.
It’s natural for neighboring residents to worry about population increases, traffic and environmental impact. The discussion over this project — and all future developments — should be viewed through this lens. We also should ask: Does this work for the overall direction of the community, not just those in the adjacent neighborhoods? Does One Park fit into a long-term plan for how Louisville wants to grow? Because it will grow.
After the project was announced, urbanist Brandon Klayko wrote a piece for his Broken Sidewalk blog, “Thinking About Skyscrapers At Lexington and Grinstead,” which LEO recently republished. The late Klayko explains how such multi-purpose development projects as One Park can be healthy for cities:
1) These projects drive population density in the right way. “Density is best placed around such central-yet-depopulated areas and great around parks and active transportation facilities like trails and bike lanes,” Klayko wrote.
2) They don’t necessarily add traffic and, in some instances, can reduce it. In addition to the various existing options that would serve One Park, such as TARC, bike lanes and immediate access to Interstate 64 “… the mixed-use nature of the project means overall transportation demand may be reduced. For instance, someone staying at the hotel may be doing business in the office space, or perhaps a person living in the apartments works in the retail or office space in the complex,” wrote Klayko.
It’s also important to note that Klayko made his analysis before One Park was revised to a much smaller scale. Instead of three towers reaching 34, 29 and 28 stories, the latest proposal has only a single 18-story tower, although it would include a block of lower buildings.
If this version was the initial project proposal, my guess is that neighbors would not have objected as strenuously. Their reaction certainly created the smaller plan we see now.
Much of the objection is over aesthetics.
One LEO reader compared the design to some futuristic building from the video game “SimCity.” Hilarious and accurate. But Cogan’s $200 million project should not be approved or rejected just because it offends someone’s tastes. On my street, one house has a bright yellow door that looks great, while another has a dark blue one that is hideous.
The bottom line is that private projects should fit with the progress and growth of the entire community, not just those who live nearby. Rather than focus on how it looks, the city has identified several criteria that One Park and other new developments should meet. We will find out whether it does in the coming weeks. Questions that need to be asked of developers should include:
Does One Park have plans for reduced-rate rental units? The lack of affordable housing is a serious problem and a contributor to homelessness.
The Metropolitan Sewer District has plans for several billion dollars worth of infrastructure needs. Will One Park further strain the infrastructure, or can it generate new revenue to help support the renovations?
The dwindling tree canopy is a crisis and contributes to the strain on the MSD infrastructure. How many trees will be added to the site, or is there a plan to require that some be planted elsewhere as a cost of development?
One Park and other developments should be required to help the community progress in these areas, in addition to fulfilling other strategic and — yes, progressive — needs of the city.
Instead of building out on farmland, let’s endorse One Park as the right kind of development density for Louisville.
Now, about Topgolf… •