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Louisville’s Main Street honored

Oct. 11, 2008 @ 03:00 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Three decades ago, Louisville’s oldest street was in need of a serious facelift.


Consider the makeover complete.


A seven-block section of West Main Street has been named one of America’s 10 Great Streets by the American Planning Association, the Courier-Journal of Louisville reports.


The designation is a tribute to the care with which the city cultivated the street, which was a mishmash of crumbling and abandoned buildings after businesses and restaurants fled to the suburbs following World War II.


“(West Main) defines who we are as a city,” said Mayor Jerry Abramson. “Those beautiful 19th-century buildings, with their unique cast-iron facades, are part of our history and they are our future.”


Settlers created West Main in 1779 at the top of the bank of the Ohio River. For nearly two centuries it was the hub of the Louisville business district before companies bolted to the city limits.


The street, in need of a boost, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and the process of turning it into mix of culture and tourism began.


Museums and restaurants now line the area, including the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, the Muhammad Ali Center, the Frazier International History Museum and the science center.


APA executive director Paul Farmer said in a release, “West Main’s successful revitalization didn’t happen on its own. It requires visionary planning, dedicated public leadership and public and private investment.”


The city hopes to turn the honor into a push to attract more tourists.


Abramson spokesman Chris Poynter said Main Street was nominated for the recognition by the Downtown Development Corp., the city’s lead agency in coordinating center city projects. The DDC developed the master plan for the city’s downtown development in the 1990s.


West Main was among more than 100 spots nominated in three categories — 10 Great Streets, 10 Great Neighborhoods and 10 Great Public Spaces in America.


Joe McDonald, a program development official with the APA, said the criteria for a Great Street included architecture, how the street handles traffic and whether it promotes “human contact and social activity.”


A series of special events was planned for the weekend to celebrate the honor.

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