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Bluegrass State Tour: Louisville's Norton Commons

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Norton Commons is a 594-acre new urbanist development located in Prospect, Kentucky within the Louisville metro. It is a master planned community designed to be self contained and modeled after Seaside, Florida. The boundries of the development is Interstate 71 to the south, Chamberlain Lane to the west and KY 1694 to the east.

Currently, Norton Commons features 500 homes and 40 businesses, and is designed to contain as many as 2,880 residences and 560,000 square-feet of commercial space, along with 150-acres of parks. The development is named after the late George Norton, founder of WAVE-TV who purchased the Norton Common properties in 1938 for a farm.

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The master plan, derived from the historic Olmsted Park neighborhoods, includes:

a. The Village Center, a mixed-use development with street-level retail, apartments and condominiums, offices, single family and detached houses, and carriage houses.

b. The Village General, consisting of single family detached homes and carriage houses. Multifamily units are allowed on the corners of streets.

c. The Village Edge, consisting of single family houses and some carriage houses.

Approximately a fourth of the land is dedicated to parks, squares, plazas, walking paths and civic amenities, designed by the firm of Sabak, Wilson & Lingo. The centerpiece of the park network is the Fountain of Meeting Street Park, which contains a 16-foot tall, 9.6-foot wide fountain constructed of cast iron. Other amenities include a the Jimson Square swimming pool, landscaped greenspace, Saint Mary Academy, Saint Bernadette Catholic Church, The Vanguard Academy and Worthington Fire Station No. 3.

Construction began in the fall of 2011 on a 40,000 square-foot, $13 million YMCA branch on 12 acres that will open in late 2012. In addition, Jefferson County Public Schools has an option to build adjacent to the YMCA prior to 2015.

I visited Norton Commons earlier in the spring, and was able to capture some of what was constructed and the expansion to the north and west. This is one of the largest development projects in the state of Kentucky at the time, in terms of residential units, and while the developers refer to this as "infill" between two existing subdivisions - it is an urban core built out to two two-lane rural routes on the fringe of the metro. While I do appreciate the high quality in construction, especially in regards to the customized houses and the replica storefronts and offices, it is very expensive, with lots fetching over $100,000 and homes selling for four to six times that with ease. It's not affordable for the middle- or lower-class.

I started out with the residences along Gerardia Lane.

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Residences along Jimson Street.

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A new residence along Civic Way.

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Residences along Kings Crown Drive.

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A Victorian corner residence at Gerardia Lane and Kings Crown Drive constructed by Lancaster Built Homes. Have $569,000 to spare?

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A residence at Jimston Street and Gerardia Lane.

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A residence at Featuerbell Boulevard and Jimson Pool Boulevard.

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Looking westward along Featuerbell Boulevard.

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Looking along Jimson Pool Street.

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Residences along Hobblebush Lane.

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Detail of residences along Meeting Street.

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A corner residence at Meeting Street and Featherbell Boulevard.

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Residences along Harlequin Street.

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A residence at Norton Commons Boulevard and Jimson Street.

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The Village Center is less complete but buildings are typically fronted with appropriate brick, up to the sidewalk, and a select few contain balconies and other ornamental elements. Give it a few decades and this will age gracefully. I started out with a view along Norton Commons Boulevard.

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A corner storefront at Norton Commons Boulevard and Meeting Street.

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Towne Plaza is an upcoming office and retail development along Norton Commons Boulevard.

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A storefront along Meeting Street.

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An unfinished corridor along Meeting Street.

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While the quality of the development cannot be understated - it is one of the best examples of new urbanism in Kentucky, it is so far from Louisville's traditional urban core that any hope of calling Norton Commons a successful urban development is all but lost when it is surrounded by traditional suburban sprawl and ten-acre lots. Lots of these sizes can be had for substantially cheaper in Louisville proper, and therefore houses can be constructed substantially less when equating in the lot prices. Factoring in that many of these fine folks commute into Louisville or to a suburb, and it doesn't make much fiscal or environmental sense to continue to develop over farm and wooded topography when ample opportunity can be found further inside the metro.

More on Norton Commons can be found after the jump »

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