History of NuLu: Louisville’s East Market District

Louisville’s East Market district has changed dramatically throughout the city’s history. In the mid-1800s, it was a city park named Woodland Gardens. The park was frequented by new Louisvillians, particularly German immigrants who were new to America.

Photo of the view from 806 E. Market St.
The view from the Shine Contracting office onto E. Market Street.

In the 1880s, tradesmen made the district home—stockyards, markets, and tanners lined the streets. East Market Street was a bustling center of Louisville commerce, with shops and pedestrians prevalent. These businesses thrived in the area through the early 1900s.

Buildings began to wear down after many years of use. The city made historic revitalization efforts to preserve the area’s character but those efforts were not enough to turn the tide. Businesses began to move out as buildings deteriorated. The once-thriving area lost much of its importance to the city’s economy; developers focused on Main Street and the east end in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.

Soon, the East Market district showed symptoms of neglect: Buildings were tagged in graffiti, and the East Market Crips gang made the area its home. The neighborhood was federally classified as a “distressed area.” Yet East Market Street maintained the features that originally attracted businesses to the area—close proximity and easy access to downtown Louisville—and the structures of historic buildings still lined the streets.

Revival and the Birth of NuLu

Gill and Augusta Holland first saw the street’s potential, constructing The Green Building in 2007. The Green Building was a renovation of an 1890s dry goods store that had been left as a vacant warehouse for the last few decades.

The Hollands remodeled it into Louisville’s first LEED-Platinum building and made investments in neighboring properties as well. The Green Building was a catalyst for development in the area. Today the East Market district is home to many shops such as The Mayan Café, Louisville Beer Store, Shine Wellness Studio, and Bluegrass Green Company.

Current NuLu Renovations

Pedestrians are common. The business character of the original neighborhood is beginning to return as buildings are being renovated. At Shine Contracting, we have had the privilege of working on four projects in the East Market area:

  1. Shine Wellness Center, behind The Green Building
  2. 804 East Market Street, the future home to Park View software company
  3. 812 East Market, the future home to Decca restaurant
  4. 215 Shelby Street, renovating a shotgun into commercial offices.

Working closely with businesses in the area, we have been able to see first-hand the dramatic change that has occurred as a result of the initial investment in The Green Building. We are excited about the potential of the neighborhood to become once again the center of a bustling Louisville commercial district.