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.
Now a celebrated architect, Rob Chandler initially chose his field by accident. In fact, it happened while getting his hands dirty.
Chandler, principal with Goody Clancy in Boston and lead architect for the RiverPark Place condo towers, was pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Colby College in the late 1970s. The lack of jobs available to English majors prompted him to start a small construction firm. An architect with whom Chandler worked on home building in New England encouraged him to look into design as a career, so he did, earning a master’s in architecture from Harvard University.
Today, Chandler provides design leadership across a wide spectrum of Goody Clancy’s academic, civic and residential projects. His work for colleges and universities includes the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, Rawls Hall at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University and the College of Informatics in Griffin Hall at Northern Kentucky University. His residential work features many award-winning housing developments in Massachusetts, notably the internationally acclaimed Tent City, with its 269 units of affordable housing in Boston. He also has designed all of the homes he has owned since college.
Chandler said that academic and residential styles “reinforce each other, although they are very different in use. Academic buildings are made of different size pieces — they have auditoriums and offices. They are not repetitive, they are singular or one off.
“Great housing takes advantage of the fact that there are multiple small pieces that build up into a larger pattern,” he added. “There is so much promise in housing to shape cities.”
Urban housing is particularly exciting to Chandler. He said it connects places, shapes outdoor spaces and creates gathering places for people.
“It’s not simply creating objects in the landscape, but it’s part of a larger system that makes streets compelling places to be,” he said. “The great thing about urban housing is that it builds outdoor spaces that people love to occupy, and it lines them with active public uses on the ground floor.”
Chandler and the team at Good Clancy are known for transforming cities, and he said he was eager to use his expertise in urban housing to help transform Louisville’s downtown. “RiverPark is a destination that will reinforce the city’s investment in Waterfront Park. It’s going to build a community. Once it’s complete, it will be a neighborhood of its own with strong, memorable qualities that many of the other neighborhoods in the city have.”
Chandler was first introduced to Louisville when RiverPark’s lead architect, K. Norman Berry, brought Goody Clancy in on the project. Chandler is charged with designing the high-rise residential buildings at RiverPark Place, while Berry focuses on the low-rise structures. Chandler is currently in the process of designing the larger buildings’ core systems, character, appearance and building materials, and he’s excited to present the newest renderings in late April.
Chandler said he sees RiverPark as a chance to contribute to a development of comparable quality to the awarding-winning projects he designed earlier in his career. He also is thrilled to take part in the revitalization of downtown housing.
“I think Louisville needs even more people downtown,” he said. “There seems to be a larger number of young college graduates migrating to the city, and I think that’s going to continue to contribute to making it a vital place. Having housing and destinations like RiverPark are going to make the city an even more desirable and dynamic place for people who are young and starting their lives.”
When asked what his favorite elements of RiverPark are, Chandler said he couldn’t choose just one.
“I think the Plaza is going to be a great space,” he said. “I’d love to live in one of the units that are higher up because they are all going to have wonderful views. I also love the experience of moving up and down River Shore Drive, which visually connects to the river. You guys probably take it for granted, but we don’t have rivers of that scale in New England. It’s really beautiful and engaging.”
Chandler added that the marina, the paths on both the river level and plaza level, further connect residents and visitors to the Ohio, which he believes is a fundamental part of the RiverPark experience.
Density is a key element to the success of RiverPark, Chandler said. “By having the density, there are resources available to build public spaces, take advantage of the riverfront location. When you build that many units, you can also afford to build high-quality, open space and high-quality destinations that invite everyone onto the site.”
The high-rise buildings are large enough to accommodate retail, restaurants and other public-use components that will distinguish the development and make it truly an active, urban environment, Chandler added.
Through his work on RiverPark, Chandler said he has come to love Louisville. “Louisville has a great scale. I love walking around on Main Street — there are some great new developments there. 21c is a fun place; NuLu is really intriguing. Louisville has a really accessible social space for someone coming from outside. You walk up and down the streets and feel at home.”
Chandler said he has been especially impressed with Waterfront Park. “Louisville has a great park system that distinguishes it from a lot of other American cities. It has taken advantage of what was once an industrial waterfront and made it a central part of the experience of living there.”
RiverPark is simply a continuation of this great asset. “RiverPark isn’t a park itself, but it carries some of those same characteristics. It’s public, you can walk through it, it focuses on views to the river, and not just for the people who live there. It’s such a great spot … connected to the park, within walking distance from downtown, with those great views of the bridges looking out over the skyline. It’s really a distinctive and memorable public space.”