Portland Wharf: Louisville, Kentucky

City Parks Forum Case Study


Imagine 56 acres of riverside habitat within walking distance of downtown Louisville, with large stands of native trees and dramatic views of the Ohio River. Just two and a half meters under the ground surface lies an urban archaeological treasure: the foundations of the buildings and streets that were once the Portland Wharf, along with thousands of artifacts reflecting the area's heyday as a thriving river town. Once part of a larger community, this site is now separated from the Portland neighborhood by a floodwall and interstate highway. This largely residential historic district has some pockets of entrenched poverty and possesses excellent potential for revitalization.

In creating Louisville's newest waterfront park, Mayor David Armstrong's goal was to work through the Portland community, and the city at large, to design a park that would incorporate an appreciation of the site's natural beauty with a creative, interactive way to experience and remember Portland Wharf's history. An additional project goal was to recreate a physical connection between the wharf site and the Portland neighborhood. A larger vision for the park planning and development was that it would spur economic growth and community pride in the adjacent Portland neighborhood.

With the help of a City Parks Forum grant, the Portland Museum organization successfully energized and informed the community about the history of the site and its meaning to the Portland neighborhood. The museum mailed more than 20,000 postcards that included both cultural information and specific event announcements. The museum held six public outreach events, distributed 25,000 tabloid format newspaper reports about the site, and hosted a community charrette. That charrette, attended by the mayor and more than 100 residents, created the outline for the Park Master Plan. The museum continues its work to educate citizens about the Portland Wharf site and the surrounding neighborhood. Using the City Parks Forum grant as a portion of a match, the museum was able to secure nearly $250,000 in additional funding to develop educational and interpretive plans for the new park.

Following the planning initiative for the new park site, the Louisville Development Authority has begun a study for commercial revitalization in the Portland neighborhood. A new organization, Portland Now, has formed, and residents are joining together to address common challenges. Nathalie Andrews, the museum's director, says, "Within the Portland neighborhood, there is not only enthusiasm but also a general feeling of a community on the rise."


Nathalie Andrews
Portland Museum
2308 Portland Ave.
Louisville, KY 40212
(P) 502-776-7678

John Swintosky
Planning and Design Department
1297 Trevillian Way
P.O. Box 37280
Louisville, KY 40233
(P) 502-456-8100
(F) 502-456-8111