The Community Gathers to Re-energize the Heart of St. Matthews With Cleanup Event
Writer / Megan Arszman
A city is only able to flourish if its heart is beating strong, and that means businesses and residents have to come together.
On May 14 business and community leaders gathered for a cleanup event to beautify the heart of St. Matthews as a way to welcome the new season. The project area was located on Shelbyville Road between Chenoweth Lane and St. Matthews Avenue. Over a period of half a day, 24 large planters were filled to the brim with colorful, blooming flowers and eight new trees were planted, all to revitalize the heart of St. Matthews.
It was a mission between the City of St. Matthews, Independence Bank, Brightside of Louisville and business leaders in the area, and it was one that Mayor Richard Tonini has been working toward for quite a few years.
“We wanted to do a community cleanup earlier, but the pandemic put a pause in our meetings,” Tonini says.
About 25 years ago the City of St. Matthews, Brightside of Louisville and a number of business owners put efforts toward repairing sidewalks, planting trees and beautifying multiple blocks in the heart of St. Matthews including Lexington Road, Frankfort Avenue, Shelbyville Road, Breckenridge Lane, Chenoweth Lane and parts of St. Matthews Avenue. Unfortunately, the amount of care needed for the upkeep was greater than the manpower available. Care fell by the wayside as flower beds succumbed to weeds and trees died. It was time for a resurgence.
Flash forward to 2022, and Independence Bank and Louisville’s Brightside Community Cleanup team partnered for a plan that included all benefactors in the area. The City of St. Matthews and some businesses along the block donated money and people for the effort. The cleanup allows the mayor of St. Matthews to shine a light on his beloved city. Tonini has been in office for eight years, and prior to that he was a councilman for 30 years – just the start of his long dedication to his city.
“I worked under Mayor Bowling Sr. as a kid,” he says. The weekend was one that he’s sure he predecessors would have loved to see.
“It was a true team effort,” Tonini says. “The people are interested in getting this thing done. That’s what you really need to get everything replanted and to stay on top of it.”
Customers who frequent the bars and restaurants in the area will be welcomed by sidewalks that have been freshly pressure-washed, removing years of foot traffic, spilled food and chewed gum. The City of St. Matthews is going to water the flowerpots, utilizing a dump truck carrying a water barrel to water each flowerpot a few times per week.
“A clean, nice neighborhood is inviting to people and spurs economic development,” says Independence Bank Louisville Market President Louis R. Straub II. “One way to appeal and attract new businesses to our area is to help property values increase. It is each of our responsibilities to maintain and improve our properties and neighborhoods.”
“We’re all doing our part,” Tonini adds. St. Matthews Feed & Seed donated flowerpots and the flowers adorning them.
The following groups worked side by side for the large undertaking:
· Independence Bank
· St. Matthews Feed & Seed
· City of St. Matthews
· Burdorf building
· Plehn’s Bakery
· Breland Group
· Tin Roof
· Supporting businesses along the corridor
“Now we have a nice, clean block with beautiful flowering plants,” Tonini says. “The majority of that area is actually part of metro Louisville, but we’re being equal partners. Everyone thinks it looks like St. Matthews – when it looks bad we get the blame, and when it looks good we’d like to get the blame too.”
For now, Tonini is unsure if the refreshing event will become an annual endeavor, but city officials hope the citizens of St. Matthews will appreciate the efforts to keep the heart of the city beating proudly, and extend it to other blocks in the city.
“It’s noticeable that the central business district could use a little TLC,” Straub expressed. “Without focused attention, this area runs the risk of falling behind other neighborhoods. Our investment is important. We hope this movement will gain momentum and encourage others to prioritize neighborhood pride and beautification projects.”
“Let’s face facts – when these business owners have a more attractive entryway into their businesses, their businesses are much more inviting to customers,” Tonini adds. “People will ride their bikes by and want to return to check out the area. If it looks uninviting, nobody will want to stop and shop. We just want to make it look inviting, help the businesses and help the image of what St. Matthews is.”