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A green solution: Neighborhood group calls for urban forest in place of old city building

One Paristown neighborhood association said they have requested the vacant building be developed into an urban forest for years.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The re-development of Louisville's vacant Urban Government Center has been in the works for years. 

Last month, the city announced it had finalized plans with developer Paristown Preservation Trust, the third developer selected to work on the project. 

Members of the Germantown Paristown Neighborhood Association said when the second developer fell through in the fall, they saw it as a chance to renew calls for an urban forest.

"We're in a position where, let's do something for the future," GPNA President John Gonder said. 

Gonder said the association has been pushing for an urban green space development, in place of the UGC, since the start of the development efforts. 

He said they want to see more trees in the neighborhood to reduce the heat island effect and to contribute to the environment. 

“People’s yards here are so small that they really can’t have trees," he said. 

A petition from GPNA has gathered several hundred signatures over the years, while the city has worked with two separate developers that failed to bring plans for the UGC to life. 

In December, the city officially handed the project to Paristown Preservation Trust and developer Steve Smith. 

"It's a great opportunity," Smith said at the time. "This is an important piece of property for the city and the neighborhood. It's a great opportunity for all of us to create a new vision for this piece of property." 

Gonder said when the city chose Smith's trust last fall, that was his sign to renew calls for the urban forest. 

“Make it a viable option to make that a park, make it an urban forest," he said. 

In an October 4th, 2021 response to a September letter from GPNA to the city, officials wrote: 

"We have had two public processes calling for proposals to redevelop or otherwise reuse the Urban Government Center properties. As part of those processes, anyone could submit plans for the site. Louisville Metro has evaluated all the proposals it has received over the last four years."

The city added: "At this time, we are not entertaining any other proposals for the property."

Smith told WHAS11 News on Jan. 19 his plan includes apartments, offices, and a parking garage as well as parks and green space. He said the fleshed-out plans will be ready to share with the public soon. 

Gonder said he understands the city has made a commitment and that there may be a need to compromise. 

“We would like to see something that compliments the neighborhood, benefits the environment, and reuse the structure, or an urban forest," he said. 

On Jan. 19, officials with Louisville Forward said the city continues to work with Paristown Preservation Trust on the site. 

More information on the city's next steps can be found here

GRACE MCKENNA

Contact reporter Grace McKenna at gmckenna@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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