The people behind RiverPark Place- David Spillane, master planner

Bringing a 40-acre, $1 billion-plus commercial/residential project to fruition that will alter the landscape and lifestyle of Louisville’s riverfront requires top talent. Rock stars of design and development, if you will. In the coming months, we’re going to feature the “Rock Stars of RiverPark Place” to help you get to know some of the brilliant and dedicated people behind the project.

Principal_David-Spillane_Goody-Clancy-290x245David Spillane spent his childhood near the water in Ireland. No matter where he has lived since then, he’s never been far from it. In fact, as president of Goody Clancy in Boston and principal for the firm’s planning and urban design practice, Spillane has built his career on a passion for design that transforms waterfronts.

“We’ve worked a lot of places and done a lot of things, but the most exciting projects for me are waterfront projects,” he said. His firm has completed waterfront projects “all the way from Vermont to Texas.”

This lifelong passion is why serving as lead architect for RiverPark Place is an ideal fit for his talents. It also means Louisville is incredibly lucky to have him on board.

Fascinated by design since he was a child, Spillane earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from University College Dublin (Ireland) and a master’s degree from Harvard University. His work has included planning in Mississippi and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, replacing an aging interstate highway in Hartford, Conn., and redefining Boston’s Fort Point Channel waterfront.


His designs have been recognized with more than a dozen national awards from the American Institute of Architects, the American Planning Association, the Congress for the New Urbanism and the Waterfront Center, including the 2013 American Planning Association’s “National Planning Excellence Award for a Firm.”

As an extension of his affection for cities’ waterfronts, Spillane serves on the board of directors for Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, where he has been an active participant in promoting public access to a cleaner and more vibrant Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay. He has also served as a member of Boston’s Municipal Harbor Plan Advisory Committee and is a design advisor to the Capitol Center Commission in Providence, R.I.

Despite his experience with waterfronts across the country, Spillane believes there is always more to learn. That’s why he and the RiverPark team traveled to Boston, Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Canada, to study what makes each of their waterfronts so successful.

“In all those cities, we saw principles of what it takes to create a great waterfront — providing public access along the water’s edge, creating public amenities with a mix of uses,” said Spillane. “Residential housing is a huge part of that, and so are open spaces and restaurants that draw people to the area who don’t live there. Also, they each provide water access for small boats, canoes and kayaks and have the ability to host events and other activities.”

As a result of these fact-finding trips, Spillane said he and the RiverPark team have been able to incorporate all of the very best elements from each city’s waterfront they visited, one of which is density.

“When Steve Poe invited us to be part of the team and the city started this project, I think that the kind of density that was envisioned was far less than what’s happening now,” said Spillane. “The density being envisioned now is like what we saw in Boston, Vancouver and Portland. It’s essential to RiverPark and what this project can ultimately become to the city. We’re seeing all around the country more and more interest in urban living and urban environments, where you can walk from your front door to a restaurant or a park or a marina and you don’t have to drive. Those are some the benefits we get from density.”

Spillane is proud that he’s had a hand in a project that brings people together in such a transformative way. “It’s a place that invites other people in, who don’t specifically live there, to have access to the restaurants on the water’s edge. I think the marina adds a whole other dimension to life, providing the ability to get out on the river.

“When you mix all those ingredients together — the mix of uses, walk-able areas, density, public access and access to the water, you have all the ingredients of a great waterfront. This is the vision we talked about from the very beginning — a place which is vibrant and active and dense.”

Spillane believes that an important part of the project, one that’s easy to overlook, is the way parking is being incorporated out of sight.

“Parking is below the building, and that creates far better views and access to the waterfront and the river. I think that’s really exciting,” he said. “There was a lot of very careful attention in design to maintain those views of the waterfront from as many units as possible, both the ones built to date, and the ones in the future.”

Though RiverPark is in its early stages, Spillane believes it already has lots of momentum. As it attracts more people and new amenities, it’s going to become even more compelling over time, he added.

“Louisville is a really vital place, and it’s become even more vital since I started with the project,” Spillane said. “At that time, Waterfront Park had just opened. I remember being in the offices of the Waterfront Development Corp., seeing the pictures of the wall of what it had been just a few years before where it was primarily industrial, and how quickly it has transformed into a major part of the city’s shared public space.”

Spillane added the he thinks the transformation of Louisville’s waterfront is an amazing story. “It’s one of the great waterfront transformations nationally, and it’s a model for many other communities. RiverPark is an incredibly important part of that story.”

RiverPark aerial modified 11.28.11

Insider Louisville

Local restaurateur sold on opening new place at RiverPark Place

east view-650

Come next summer, diners and just hanger-outers will have a new hangout down on the river.

The folks who brought Doc Crow’s to Whiskey Row and La Coop in Nulu– and just opened Union Common in Nashville – plan to open a 12,000-square-foot restaurant as part of the RiverPark Place project.

Chip Hamm

“This one will be about beer,” said investor and attorney Chip Hamm, though he professes to not know the details of the as-yet-unnamed restaurant’s food concept. Doc Crow’s was about whiskey and bourbon, he explained, and La Coop about wine. “But they don’t let me anywhere near the kitchen.”

He’s referring to his partners in the renamed Falls City Hospitality Group — Michael and Steven Ton, who broughtBasa to Frankfort Avenue, master sommelier Brett Davis and chef Bobby Benjamin.

Steven Ton previously told Insider Louisville the waterfront restaurant will be a “sports-friendly concept with about 120 beers on tap, wines on tap, maybe even cocktails on tap.”

He described it as roadhouse type of food – buckets of seafood and burgers – sort of like the chain Yard House, but better. (Its menu includes burgers, street tacos, along with deviled eggs and turkey pot pie.)

Hamm admits he had his doubts when it was first suggested he meet with developer Steve Poe.

“Frankly, I thought it was a dumb idea,” he said of plans for the waterfront restaurant. He said initially they considered putting a bar in the historic house to be restored on the property, but have since decided on the new building whose foundation is going in now. The new restaurant will be at least twice the size of Doc Crow’s.

“The reason I pooh-poohed it in the first place was that I thought, ‘Who in the world is going to be down there?’ Then when I did the due diligence, when I did some research – when I say research, I mean I’ll just go sit in the car for some amount of time and look at traffic counts, watch people – where they’re going, where they’re coming from, who’s going to the bridge, who’s going to the restaurants. There were just a lot more people than I expected,” he said.

“There was one particular event, for the marina, and there must have been 400 people there. It was a marina event on a Wednesday when the weather was not that great. So what would happen on a summer day when the weather’s nice and you’ve got a lot more infrastructure built? That was even before the bridge opened ….

“I wasn’t sold initially, and I’m completely sold now,” he said.


The partners developed plans with the idea that their new restaurant would be a complement to the waterfront restaurant offerings, including the nearby Tumbleweed, though that restaurant is closing Saturday, Nov. 15, after a rent dispute with its landlords, the Waterfront Development Corp. and Waterweed LLC, which are looking for a new restaurant tenant for that site.

He said from his own experience, he believes people will spend more time on the waterfront if there are more amenities there.

“A lot of times when people are picking a restaurant, they pick an area, not just a destination. They’ll say, ‘Let’s go to NuLu’ or ‘Let’s go to Frankfort Avenue.’ They make a decision once they get there. They don’t necessarily pick it when they leave the house,” Hamm said.

Hamm will join Insider Louisville and discuss the new restaurant this week at Thursdays at RiverPark Place, 4:30-6:30 p.m., at Poe Companies’ offices, 1250 River Rd. Appetizers, beer and wine will be served.


Riverfront condo model open — for tower not yet built

By Braden Lammers, Louisville Business First, October 24, 2014

Poe Companies LLC has come up with a clever way to draw interest in its riverfront condominium tower that is not expected to be under construction until early next year. At the company’s office on River Road, Poe Companies officials have set up a model of what a fifth-floor, two-bedroom condo will look like in the 16-story EdgeWater at RiverPark Place tower.

Read the full story here