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Metro Newsroom 

Waterfront Development Corporation Marks 20 Years

Wednesday September 27, 2006

Local officials, former governors and major donors recall transformation from sand and scrap piles to award-winning park

The transformation of Louisville’s waterfront from piles of sand and scrap metal to an acclaimed community park was remembered today during the Waterfront Development Corporation’s 20th anniversary celebration.

Local officials, former governors, major donors, former board members, and friends of the waterfront project attended a reception on the Belle of Louisville this afternoon. A public celebration will be held tonight, including a free concert on the Harbor Lawn.

“Waterfront Park is the place the entire community comes to celebrate, and today we’re celebrating Waterfront Park itself,” said Mayor Jerry Abramson. “To experience a sea-change of this magnitude requires long-term planning and years of dedication to a project. This organization, with the support of both the public and private sectors, has taken what was an eyesore and turned it into a gem on Louisville’s landscape.”

Waterfront Park currently includes 85 acres of lawns, playgrounds, walkways, event areas, and wharfs. Construction on the third and final phase, including new lawn and picnic areas and walking/jogging paths began in September 2005 and is expected to be complete by late 2008. The centerpiece will be the creation of a pedestrian walkway connecting Louisville to Indiana via the Big Four Bridge.

More than one million people visit Waterfront Park each year. Since the creation of Waterfront Park, more than $360 million in development has sprung up in the waterfront corridor and the eastern portion of Louisville’s downtown.

Three former governors, major donors, and Waterfront Park supporters gathered today to celebrate the progress and success of what was born 20 years ago. Governors Martha Layne Collins, Brereton Jones, and Paul Patton, and Secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet Robby Rudolph, representing Governor Ernie Fletcher, were in attendance. David A. Jones and Sally Brown, two major donors and catalysts of fundraising, also attended.

“It takes true pioneers to create something out of nothing and that is exactly what this community did in bringing life to Waterfront Park,” said Governor Collins, who was governor in 1986, when the Waterfront Development Corporation was established. “Louisville’s riverfront has gone from a forgotten and ignored corner to a graceful and celebrated destination for the entire community.”

Tonight’s concert begins at 5 p.m., and features the national act, Cracker, along with Bonepony and Soul, Inc. It is the final installment of this year’s Waterfront Wednesday concert series, produced in conjunction with WFPK-FM. Free 20th Anniversary cupcakes will be available to the first 2,000 in attendance.

The concert will be on the Harbor Lawn, located between the boat docks at the Great Lawn and the Children's Play Area. Parking is available along River Road, in the Green Lot, the Orange Lot, and surrounding pay lots.

Park Timeline

Waterfront Development Corporation created by interlocal agreement between the Commonwealth of Kentucky, City of Louisville and Jefferson County.

First Board Meeting; David Karem named first Chairman of the Board.

WDC hires staff and moves into first headquarters on Main Street

Mary Bingham donates funds to acquire WDC headquarters on River Road

David A. Jones leads community effort to bring the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church USA to the Waterfront area.

Facelift begins with acquisition and clearing of properties

Hargreaves Associates selected as Master Plan designer from national search. Design funded by Mary Bingham, Sara Brown, and David A. Jones.

Construction begins on first phase of the RiverWalk

Private fundraising campaign begins for Phase I, chaired by David A. Jones.

More than $14 million in private donations are pledged, matched by $12.5 million from the State.

Ground is broken for Waterfront Park

RiverWalk completed to Shawnee Park

New wharf completed, first major piece of Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park hosts its first concert series on the wharf, Rockin’ at Riverpoints

Plans announced to locate Louisville Slugger Field in the Waterfront District

Joe’s Crab Shack opens for business

Children’s Play Area and Linear Park are dedicated and opened to public

Great Lawn dedicated and opened to the public

Phase I of Waterfront Park dedicated and opened to the public (55 acres, $58 million)

Construction begins on Waterfront Park Place, a residential development called for in the Master Plan

Waterfront Park is one of five national projects to receive the Honor Award for design from the American Society of Landscape Architecture

Waterfront Park receives Phoenix Award Grand Prize for Excellence for brownfields redevelopment, the highest award in the nation

Adventure Playground/Waterplay of Phase II is opened to public

Phase II opened to public (17 acres, $15 million)

Waterfront Park voted No. 1 Lawn for Family Fun by Briggs & Stratton

Construction begins on Phase III, final phase of Park (13 acres, projected $21 million)

Waterfront Independence Festival expands to two days and hosts more than 150,000 people

Phase III scheduled for completion.


Louisville's downtown waterfront before and after. Click to enlarge images.