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New Urban Manufacturing: Neo-Industrial Design in Louisville, Kentucky

Christopher Rhie's (MCP/MSRED '14) thesis found that American manufacturing is experiencing a modest renaissance. U.S. firms are choosing to re-shore manufacturing jobs not out of their sense of patriotism, but because it makes good business sense. The costs of transportation and overseas labor are increasing, opening the door for domestic production. Political leaders are embracing the prospects for skilled, living wage jobs: President Obama has made manufacturing one of the central tenets of his economic recovery plan. This has important implications for cities, which stand to benefit from new investment and increased employment opportunities. However, important questions linger for planners: where will manufacturing jobs materialize within the urban fabric? Are factories even viable within the core cities of industrial regions, where there is the greatest need? If so, what physical planning strategies should those cities be pursuing in order to retain, attract, and increase the number of manufacturing jobs within their borders?
This research begins with a history of urban production, from the Industrial Revolution through the present day. Emerging trends are assessed and synthesized into a new model for urban industrial development. That model is tested with a detailed examination of Louisville, Kentucky, a place that embodies the renewed efforts to re-industrialize cities with a manufacturing past. Urban manufacturing typologies are presented that describe the urban forms in Louisville at large, and within the Park hill industrial corridor in particular. A unified set of design principles is presented and matched to the urban manufacturing typologies, focusing on verticality, mixed uses, transparency, sustainability, connectivity, and adaptability. Finally, the thesis concludes with an assessment of the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing the implementation of the Neo-Industrial City model.