By DAVID K. KAREM
Your Voice Contributor
The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) is developing a major exhibition on urban rivers and community involvement. Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways and Civic Engagement addresses the issues and concerns that cities throughout the United States and around the world face with the intersection of their natural and built environments. Based on considerations of the social, cultural and ecological history of the Anacostia River that flows through Washington, D.C., the exhibit explores issues that six other selected urban river communities have confronted and draws lessons for effective solutions from the experiences of other urban river restoration projects. Louisville’s waterfront and the urban waterfronts of Shanghai, London, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Charleston, S.C., will be part of the exhibit.
As one of the six selected cities, Louisville has a great story to tell about waterfront park development and community revitalization. The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum is working with the Louisville Waterfront Development Corporation (WDC) to share Louisville’s efforts to reconnect the city with its river, and to bring cultural and economic activity to the water’s edge. As WDC’s president, I was a panelist at a November 2011 ACM-sponsored community forum on waterfront parks. The audio records of that forum and the videotaped interview conducted at that forum will become part of the museum’s archival collections and made accessible to researchers. WDC has also made materials and objects available for exhibition research and possible display; the final decision on the specific components of the exhibition is forthcoming.
Among the powerful messages that we hope to share is the incredible value of a strong public/private partnership that has resulted in the creation of an award-winning public space that is also well-loved by the community. The conscious decision to provide a quality urban green space while leaving development around the park in the hands of the private sector is another valuable lesson that has borne fruit, resulting in a proliferation of housing, restaurants, galleries and other businesses that have sprung to life in the Waterfront District.
It is heartening to know that Louisville can be seen as a national model for waterfront redevelopment, and also that these kinds of opportunities can help us continue to learn and grow from the experiences of others.
The Reclaiming the Edge exhibit is scheduled to be on view from Sept. 17, 2012 through Aug. 18, 2013.
David Karem is president of the Waterfront Development Corporation (WDC), whose role is park planning and construction; park maintenance; and event production and coordination. WDC also manages the Belle of Louisville on behalf of Louisville Metro, has design review authority in the Waterfront District, and is developing the master plan for Riverview Park in Southwest Jefferson County.