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Courier Journal, October 3, 2016
Old Louisville among 'Great Places in America'
by Martha Elson, Courier-Journal, October 3, 2016
Just after Old Louisville wrapped up another St. James Court Art show Sunday, it's been named one of five "Great Neighborhoods" on a list of "Great Places in America."
The American Planning Association in Washington, D. C. cited the art show as one of the contributing factors that landed Old Louisville on the list, which it released Monday. The other four are Downtown Santa Ana, Santa Ana, California; Midtown Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia.; Nob Hill, Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Downtown Warren, Warren, Rhode Island.
Old Louisville is designated nationally and locally as a historic preservation district, owing largely to its huge collection of Victorian homes. Also, It has "such a diversity of persons and activities that it constitutes a 'city within a city,'" an association news release said.
Other attractions cited are Halloween events that offer ghost tales about Victorian homes in the neighborhood; the Old Lousiville Holiday Home Tour in early December, showcasing 10 Victorian mansions and townhomes in their "holiday finery;" and the Garvin Gate Blues Festival in October, coming up Friday and Saturday, Oct. 7 and 8 this year.
Neighborhood leaders submitted an application for the honor last year, and they were notified in July that they had been chosen as one of the top five, said Shawn Williams, executive director of the Old Louisville Neighborhood Council, made up of 17 individual neighborhood councils and based in Central Park at 6th and Magnolia streets. Williams also is the author of "Belgravia Court: Old Lousiville's Premier Walking Court," with photos by Dan Colon.
"It's a very important designation for Louisville" and "a very big deal in the urban planning world," Williams said. The West Main Street Preservation District in downtown Louisville also was recognized in 2008 in the "Great Streets" category by the association, which also annually recognizes streets and public spaces around the country.
Calling Old Louisville "one of the first residential neighborhoods in the city" in connection with this year's competition, the association said all five top neighborhoods represent the "gold standard" in terms of having a "true sense of place," community involvement and a vision for the future. Also, “The neighborhoods on this year’s list are a testament to the critical role of planning in creating more dynamic, equitable" and "economically healthy communities," association president Carol Rhea said in a statement. Since launching the Great Places in America program in 2007, APA has recognized 260 neighborhoods, streets and public spaces around the country.
The great Southern Exposition in Old Lousiville starting in 1883 in the vicinity of St. James and Belgravia courts, considered equivalent to the World's Fair of its time, was cited by the association as "the single most dramatic stimulus for expansion." It ran for five years, touting the rebirth of Southern industry and "highlighting the innovations of the day."
During the past two decades in Old Louisville, an "increasing number of Louisvillians are attracted to its historical and architectural significance; its geographical proximity to the business and government centers of Louisville; and its community spirit," the association said. For a complete list of award-winners and more information, go to www.planning.org/greatplaces.