$45 million Waterfront Park expansion put on hold due to budget crisis

Waterfront Park focuses on smaller development site in wake of budget cuts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Waterfront Park is slamming the brakes on a massive $45 million expansion as the city’s budget crisis bleeds into all departments of Metro Government.

Instead, the Waterfront Development Corporation is pushing forward with a $12 million portion of the plan: a one-and-a-half acre piece of the planned 22 acre expansion.

This comes after the group found out the city may cut $300,000 from its operating budget. With a park that draws in 2.2 million visitors and holds 150 events every year, that is a difficult blow.

“It impacts our ability to maintain the 85 acres that we have, never mind add an additional 22 acres,” Deborah Bilitski, the Vice President of the Waterfront Development Corporation, said.

The full 22 acre planned expansion of Waterfront Park between 10th and 15th streets will have to wait.

But thanks to a partnership with the Kentucky Science Center, Bilitski said they’ll still be able to build an area for free, hands-on learning experiences called Playworks at the Waterfront.

“It is going to be bringing in a lot of authentic industrial artifacts to kind of pay tribute to the site’s history and significance in the development of our city,” Bilitski said.

The Overlook (Source: WDC)
The Overlook (Source: WDC)
The Big Dig (Source: WDC)
The Big Dig (Source: WDC)
The River (Source: WDC)
The River (Source: WDC)

All of the history buried deep in the site will be brought to life with The Overlook, The Big Dig and The River, which will be built between 11th and 12th streets.

“They’re already signs of improvement here," local Portland Artist and community activist, Danny Seim, said. "Where we’re standing here used to be an overgrown mess of tents and syringes and flood debris.”

Seim said he’s all for the idea of connecting Portland with the rest of downtown Louisville, but renderings haven’t always meant reality for the neighborhood.

“It’s been kind of a roller coaster for the longtime residents because they get a sense that these developers are coming in, and changes coming in, and it doesn’t always pan out,” he said.

Siem said with so many different projects popping up then burning out, like FoodPort and the Portland Wharf, the blossoming Portland community has created its own development.

“We’ve kind of built up this resilient tolerance for this kind of thing, because there have been several instances in the past decade, or even the past four years since I’ve lived here, that we’ve had these carrots dangled in front of our noses,” Seim said.

The project is still in the fundraising phase. The city initially gave $950,000 in seed money, but they still need more.

At this point, officials are looking for the project to be completed in Spring 2021.

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