Two local high schools that are located downtown released plans for expansion last week:
Presentation Academy released initial plans to build a new gymnasium and arts wing on a lot they purchased at Fourth and Breckenridge in the SoBro "neighborhood" adjoining downtown. Currant plans show a building on the southwest corner of their lot with a large structure that will contain a gymnasium, theatre, and class space for art. The building will cost over 5 million dollars, and a private campaign will commence soon to raise the money needed.
This plan, which will develop and bring some vitality to a relatively quiet block in the city's core, has one hitch: to build this new expansion, they will have to raze a building with some historic value for it's Art-Deco form. The 900 Building, which has been abandoned for years, will not be incorporated into the design. Some local preservationists have objected to this planned demolition, pointing out the historic value to the structure.
Despite the value of the current building, only a few people have openly assailed this project. And with the prospect of new investment at the site and some renewed energy, don't expect the city to block the plans.
The other announced expansion plan was by St. Francis High School at Third and Broadway. They recently purchased the former YMCA building and garage. Their announced intentions are to invest some money into the garage while the school completes a long term study of their needs for this new building. Eventually the property will house an expansion at St. Francis.
These school expansions are helping to solidify to foundation of downtown as a place for Louisvillians to congregate, live, work, and educate their children. Projects such as these bring in another element to a downtown - and a needed one. They make downtown useful to other demographics than just your 20-somethings who want to buy a condo and go to Fourth Street Live. These types of projects bring teenagers and families to the core more often, fostering a sense of safety and vitality, even on days when there are not huge events going on downtown.
Besides the "blockbuster" projects currently planned for downtown, these types of projects bring in your typical Louisvillians to the core on a consistent basis, not only for "high-minded" uses, such as museum, art galleries, and high-end restaurants. These types of uses are equally as important as others because they convince citizens that downtown is for everyone and all uses, not just out-of-towners and conventioneers.
Downtown needs to encourage uses such as this to keep the core relevant to the lives of typical citizens.