By Charlotte Whitty
Beechwood Park volunteer
Well, it wasn’t exactly paradise. It was the German Protestant Orphan’s Home that stood where Mid-City Mall stands until 1962, when it was demolished to make room for Kentucky’s second enclosed shopping center.
There were also six homes on the south side of Beechwood Avenue that likewise met their demise for the developers to put up a parking lot. Vacant land remains where the front of the houses stood; the back portion is covered in asphalt. A wall, which separates the land from the asphalt, manifests occasional illegible spray-painted messages. Walkways leading to the phantom houses are still discernible in patches under the grass.
More than five decades after the creation of this vacant lot, neighbors — residents of Beechwood Avenue and some members of the Tyler Park Neighborhood Association — gathered in the fall of 2013 to discuss the possibility of transforming it into a community green space: a little spot of paradise.
On Feb. 16, 2014, these residents held their first public meeting at Urban Design Studio with the help of Patrick Piuma, to discuss their vision and to brainstorm. Several preliminary hand-drawn sketches were made to illustrate design possibilities, incorporating ideas such as a linear plan, involving straight pathways and right angles, versus a more organic plan, with curvilinear paths, to counterbalance the linear nature of the site.
During this meeting, residents also tossed about ideas of what elements they would like to see in their park. These included a gazebo, benches, handicap access, a recreational area with play structures for children, statues, murals on the cinder block wall depicting the homes that once stood there and even sculptural doorways, providing several entrances to the park from the sidewalk. They discussed issues such as dog waste, lighting, native plantings, and salvaging existing healthy trees.
A second public meeting was held on March 23, 2014, at the home of Brian Caudill, a resident and one of the park’s leaders. There, Urban Design Studio presented residents with their comprehensive, illustrated study, incorporating all the aforementioned elements. During this meeting, the public chose the more organic plan, with curvilinear walkways.
In January 2015, Friends of Beechwood Park, a 501(c) non-profit organization, was created. And in January 2016, a 30-year lease was signed with owner Sandy Metts, leasing the land for $1 a year to Friends of Beechwood Park.
Now, this forgotten piece of land with its grass-covered steps and walkways is their responsibility. They needed to do something with it, and for that, Friends of Beechwood Park needed help. Limbwalker Tree Service Inc. has donated some of their time to help trim some trees on the site. A Neighborhood Development Fund Grant was obtained through the Louisville Metro Council District 8 office (Tom Owen) to help pay for initial insurance cost.
John Dant, owner of The Back Door, has volunteered to fund the cost of summer maintenance (mowing, etc). The Friends of Beechwood Park has also contracted with Gresham Smith and Partners, a well-known landscape architect firm, to help in the planning for the site. This work will help with the final plans and budget needed to complete the project.
Two fundraisers have been organized and hosted by Brian. The first took place in December 2015, followed by a spring fundraiser in April 2016. Friends of Beechwood Park has raised more than $4,500.
Upcoming fundraisers include The Back Door after-party associated with the Highlands Beer Festival, presented by ValuMarket and the Back Door, May 21 from 3:00 until 7:00 p.m., taking place precisely in the parking lot that used to be (the back of) the Beechwood Avenue houses! The after party will be at The Back Door. Dant will donate a portion of the proceeds from the after party.
Also, on June 11 during the Tyler Park Neighborhood Association Garden Tour, residents will organize a plant sale, and children who live on Beechwood Avenue will sell lemonade and baked goods at the site of the future Beechwood Park.
Please come support this worthy cause to create a little piece of paradise, where people can rest and play, in our amazing community. Here, truly, anything is possible!
If more information is needed please feel free to contact Brian Caudill at (502) 439-8030 or firstname.lastname@example.org