Big Four and Bourbon Make For Big Day

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There were two stories in the news yesterday that will have lasting effects on our city, even though if you were watching late-night newscasts you’d think the most important thing going on around town was a guy shooting his boss (WDRB), a West End shooting (WLKY)  and  some couple from Alabama finding a bedbug in a hotel (an exclusive on WAVE).

Big Four is a big deal. PHOTO: WLKY-TV

Yesterday afternoon, though, in a span of a couple of hours, local government made two huge announcements. One was that the Big Four Bridge construction, in which the surface will be transformed from a dangerous collection of broken railroad ties into a smooth path for cyclists, is ready to start. If all goes as scheduled, I’ll be riding my bike across the span by the end of 2012.

That’s big news, because with the dramatic look of the curved walkway up to the landing, the Big Four could become a city signature, much more impressive than ideas like the doomed fountain and more realistic than projects like Museum Plaza. This is the stuff of postcards and miniature models and magnets for your fridge. And it’s really a world-class bragging right — it will be the longest pedestrian bridge over water in the U.S.

And only because the cost of the Ohio River Bridges Project is so much more (at least $3.9 billion), the $22 million cost seems like a bargain. It sure seems like the ORBP backers (many of whom are the same public officials) could learn something about getting something done from the Big Four project. Of course, the Big Four has been a long time coming — built in 1895, and has been idle (save serving as a place to string Christmas lights) since 1969.

Mayor Fischer and his entourage, including Gov. Beshear, then mosied down Main Street to The Fort Nelson Building.  Close followers of city politics know the Eighth and Main structure for the tragic accident that nearly took the lives of Louisville Downtown Management District director Alan DeLisle and Patty Clare. Now, a distillery is taking up residence across from the Slugger Museum to make bourbon and become another tourist attraction.

Michter’s Distillery will be doing public tours and tastings by spring 2013. It’s also the start of something bigger — LDMD plans to create a series of bourbon-themed attractions. More are sure to follow.

So TV viewers may have watched the first segment of the news and thought — hey, just another day of summer shootings — but July 6 may go down as one in which the city’s image changed for the better.