Kicking-Off Green Lab Work in Louisville, Kentucky

By Margaret O'Neal posted 11-21-2014 17:01

Fred Sauceman_louisville
Downtown Louisville. | Credit: Fred Sauceman, via Flickr, Creative Commons

PastForward 2014 was an inspiring week for the Green Lab staff. Not only was our research about the contribution of older buildings to neighborhood vitality cited numerous times, but conference attendees from across the country wanted to talk with us about how to promote preservation as a tool for sustainable development in their communities. This week, we rode this excitement all the way to Louisville, kicking-off what will be three years’ worth of work testing and measuring the impact of concentrated, multi-disciplinary efforts to address complex urban challenges and opportunities.

Over the past few years, the National Trust has become increasingly involved in the national conversation about our cities. We have worked in multiple places – in multiple ways – defining the role that older buildings and blocks play in the health and livability of communities, proving their intrinsic environmental, economic, and social value, and identifying common barriers and corresponding policy solutions to increase the rate of building reuse and retrofitting.

For the first time, the National Trust is bringing together all of our resources to test the impact of targeted, collaborative work. Led by the Preservation Green Lab, the National Trust’s project in Louisville aims to harness the power of the market and a growing interest in sustainability to help bring more of the city’s historic assets back to life.

Mural in the Highlands section of Louisville, KY | Credit: Seth Werkheiser, via Flickr, Creative Commons
Mural in the Highlands section of Louisville. | Credit: Seth Werkheiser, via Flickr, Creative Commons

Why Louisville? The city’s manufacturing beginnings, mid-century growth, and subsequent population decline is a familiar sequence seen in cities across the Midwest and Northeast. Louisville’s large stock of historic residential, industrial, and retail buildings provides a foundation for an emerging 21st-century economy based on health care, education, entrepreneurialism, arts, food, and tourism. Strong interest in preservation, the availability of big data, active local partners, and an increasing market for urban living provide the perfect opportunity for the Green Lab to develop and test a range of sustainable preservation strategies, from smarter development codes to district energy efficiency retrofits.

The Louisville urban laboratory will include work on multiple levels:

    • Financial Tools – using the expertise of Melissa Jest, Historic Properties Redevelopment Program manager from the National Trust’s Preservation Resources Department, we will work with the board of a newly formed organization to shape new financial tools to assist innovative reuse projects in older neighborhoods.
    • Mapping and Policy Innovation – building on our Partnership for Building Reuse experience in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, we will use data collection, mapping, and interviews with local practitioners to identify barriers to reuse, and suggest policies and strategies to overcome these obstacles.
    • Marketing and Community Engagement – working with the National Trust’s Marketing Department, we will work with local preservationists and urban advocates to highlight opportunities to engage Louisville citizens about ways to increase energy efficiency, reuse vacant buildings, and increase vitality and livability in the city’s older neighborhoods.
    • Tax Incentives – led by Renee Kuhlman, director of Special Projects, Government Relations and Policy from the National Trust, we will work with local and statewide partners to strengthen the Kentucky Historic Preservation Tax Credit.
    • Energy Efficiency and America Saves! – through our partnership with the Department of Energy, as well as the local utility, the Louisville Downtown Partnership, and property and business owners, we will create America Saves! demonstration projects to increase energy efficiency in Louisville’s older commercial districts.

This week provided the team’s first look at all the city’s assets, neighborhoods, and opportunities. We met with anyone who would talk to us – from local university partners to data experts, from Metro government officials to long-time residents – and came away deeply impressed by their energy, creativity, and commitment to a sustainable future for Louisville. We look forward to working with these partners and our National Trust colleagues over the coming months and years to learn from Louisville and create a model for other cities across the country.

Margaret O’Neal is a senior manager, sustainable preservation at the National Trust Preservation Green Lab.

#RealEstate #HistoricPropertiesRedevelopmentProgram #Sustainability #Announcements #Louisville #PreservationGreenLab

Get Connected

Discuss this blog post and more on Forum’s new online community. Sign up now.