Thursday, May 24, 2007

From this week's City Strobe...

Putting the park back in Park Hill
Last week, Louisville scored a $1 million grant from the EPA to begin cleanup and re-development of the Park Hill neighborhood just west of downtown. The area has long been home to industrial plants, many of which have dribbled petroleum into the soil for decades. Like most older, neglected neighborhoods, Park Hill has a rich history that includes the circa-1800s farming community known as the Cabbage Patch and the original Sts Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, which catered to, among others, the numerous injured victims in the area's early industrial plants. (The neighborhood inspired Louise Marshall's bestselling children's novel and subsequent movie "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch," which includes this prescient rhyme: "In the mud and scum of things / Something always, always sings!")

In the wake of the successful rehab of other near-downtown neighborhoods, the impending $4-gas price, and sprawl's godforsaken O'Charleysification, Park Hill seems like a natural for inner-city revitalization. But how much cleanup can $1 million -- roughly the amount a McMansion owner might spend to polish the palladium faucets in his 11 bathrooms -- buy? Instead of funding actual cleanup, Louisville will use the money to establish a revolving loan fund to assess properties for environmental damage. These "brownfields" are being cleaned up nationwide and are the target of innovative environmental scientists and vulture capitalists alike, thanks to the conditions mentioned above.

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