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    Last week I had the pleasure of riding on the inaugural Keep Louisville Weird bus tour. The tour began at the University Club on the University of Louisville's Belknap campus with a light breakfast and business gathering with Leadership Louisville Center. The bus tour took a few dozen of Louisville's leaders, community partners, and media personnel along a ride through south Louisville to reveal some exciting things that are in the works for the south end.

    The bus tour began with a drive from the University Club down Floyd Street where we were informed of the work being done on Belknap Engineering and Applied Sciences Research Park. Barbara Nichols from Metro Louisville's District 21 and the South Louisville Business Association told us about all the construction going on at UofL and the student housing that is going in as well. The hope with the research park is to keep it a very green space as well for the community. We then proceeded through the Beechmont neighborhood and this part of the tour was very informative. We learned that back in the 1900s when the Beechmont area first came about, it was mainly summer homes for the Louisville residents. After World War II, blue collar workers settled here and then in the 1970s the waves of immigrants coming to Louisville began settling here. Immigrants have been welcomed here and making their homes in Beechmont for the last 40 to 50 years. It is a very transient population with students who attend the University of Louisville, horse racing folks who frequent the neighborhood with its close access to Churchill Downs, and the immigrants who come from all over the world.

    We then proceeded through what was once known as the Oakdale neighborhood along Southern Parkway. This is a historic Olmstead Parkway and was the original Grand Boulevard of the city. Southern Parkway goes straight to Iroquois Park and all the old homes and pathways are very walkable. There is commercial development off of the parkway. Beechmont was formed in the 1920s-40s and was considered the first Louisville suburb and houses the city's first zip code. The Beechmont Neighborhood Association is very active and they like to keep their neighborhood vibe and feel to everything they do. The Iroquois Library is a huge stable and ground point to the neighborhood and boasts a huge second language program which is very popular. The Library itself was built by WPA and just celebrated its 75th anniversary in the same building on Woodlawn Avenue. The library was built by the residents and a bit of trivia: residents could buy an inch of the floor for $10 when it was being constructed. The residents are very proud of the Library as well as their neighborhood and take great ownership of it all. Woodlawn Avenue (Beechmont's "Main Street") is home to many of Louisville's famed eclectic and ethnic restaurants, including Vietman Kitchen. As we drove through the area, we came upon the Americana Center which has been serving immigrants in Louisville since 1990. It is now housed on the old Holy Rosary property and has a huge Vietnamese church nearby. This area of Louisville also has the largest concentration of trees in the city.

    After going through the Beechmont area, we landed at St Mary and Elizabeth Hospital where we learned of the construction and progress going on there to expand and revise the ER department for the hospital. As we drove away from the hospital complex, Vince Jarboe of the Southwest Dream Team took over the speaker and began talking to us about the vision of the Southwest Dream Team. The team began in 2007 when Kohl's decided unexpectedly to NOT build a store on Dixie Highway because Dixie was not considered "Kohl's material." Since then, the Southwest Dream Team has taken on many of the south Louisville projects to revamp and revitalize the southern tips of Jefferson County in Louisville. They are proud of Iroquois Park and all of its amenities, including the Iroquois Amphitheater which will hold over twenty concerts this year, mainly though the summer and fall months of 2015. The Southwest Dream Team has been diligently working on revitalizing Colonial Gardens which is directly across from the entrance to the Amphitheater. It started out as a zoo in 1902 and has been a roadhouse and a "biker's bar" since then. Now they are working to redo the entire structure and make it like a Westport Village feel. It is an historic property in Louisville and they want to keep it that way. The city of Louisville now owns the property and work to start revamping it will begin hopefully in 2017 when the lease with Little Caesar's (which sits adjacent to the Gardens) is expired.

    From here the bus tour traveled out to the Fairdale area and we were informed of some very exciting proposals coming for the Fairdale area. We learned of plans to make a Fairdale Roundabout in the central part of Fairdale and the South Points Scenic Area and Louisville Loop announcements. We stopped at the Riverside Farnsley-Moreman Landing and learned of the historic nature of the property and how important it is to the city and the Louisville Loop. Bennet Knox of the Jefferson Memorial Forest spoke to us about how Fairdale wants to make a connection between Iroquois Park and the Jefferson Memorial Forest and connect them both in as many ways as possible. The launch of the new South Points Scenic Area is the newest endeavor by the city to do this. Fairdale officials hope to make Fairdale a vision of a mini Nashville, Indiana and make it a tourist attraction and destination spot much like that town has done. They want Fairdale to be the gateway to Jefferson Memorial Forest and the Louisville Loop. See the website for more information. At Jefferson Memorial Forest, plans are underway to improve the camping sites and welcome center and make more of a connection from Riverside and the Louisville Loop to downtown Louisville. People can bike from downtown to the current end of the Louisville Loop at the Farnsley Moreman landing. At Farnsley Moreman we discovered that a chapel from the 1880s has been saved by the community and now sits along the river on this historic site. We stopped at the new Southwest Regional Library and saw the magnificent building and programs going on at this Library. June Meredith of the Dixie Area Business Association spoke to us along the bus tour from this point about this area's point to make Dixie Highway corridor more attractive to the city. We also heard from Councilman Rick Blackwell about the Riverport and Dixie Corridor and the "Dixie Do-Over" project happening along Dixie Highway. One very fascinating point made about the Dixie Do-Over was a plan to use solar panels on a "solar panel farm" to light the new proposed median lights in the middle of Dixie Highway. This area of Louisville is the first to do this, and Blackwell said "The Dixie Do-Over is the next big thing happening in the city of Louisville."

    The Keep Louisville Weird campaign seeks to: "The mission of the Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA) is to preserve the unique community character of the Metro Louisville area by promoting locally-owned, independent businesses and to educate citizens on the value of purchasing locally." It is run by the Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA) and its newest facet is the Keep South Louisville Weird motto. Seek out more information on their Facebook page and through their website,

    Photos and images courtesy of LIBA and Louisville Leadership Center, Facebook pages

    Erin Nevitt's picture

    About Erin Nevitt

    Longtime Louisvillian, I am a children's librarian at heart and have a passion for children's lit. I am most recently a stay-at-home mom who is always on the move, searching for family fun in Louisville. If it's free, it's preferable!

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