A Man of Action
Matt Meunier Creates an Atmosphere of Success for Jeffersontown
In 1992, Matt Meunier and his family moved to Louisville and bought their first home in Jeffersontown. It didn’t take long for them to fall in love with the vibrancy of Jeffersontown. Fortuitously, Meunier lived just down the street from the previous Mayor Foreman at the time.
“Mayor Foreman was hoping to build upon the success of Mayor Ruckriegel, who he replaced in 2001, by shaping a bolder vision for the city to move towards,” explains Meunier, who back then owned his own planning and engineering consulting firm. In September 2003, Meunier joined the City as Director of Planning and Design, a position that was integral in promoting the growth and vision of the city. He’s now been with the City of Jeffersontown for the past 16 years and is currently the Director of Community Development. He’s also assistant to Mayor Bill Dieruf.
In his previous role, he worked with a team to develop the City’s first full Land Development Code whereby Jeffersontown was able to manage all the development activity within the City. This created tremendous opportunity to craft a vision for the community as well as gain the necessary controls to see that it is achieved. With his technical expertise, he brought experience in stormwater drainage, roadway design and project management as well as an ability to bring these elements together in a working environment to better serve the needs of the City.
Meunier formed a steering committee for the Renaissance on Main Program and partnered with the University of Kentucky School of Design/Architecture to craft the Historic Gaslight Square District Master Plan, ‘Places to Grow, Envision Jeffersontown’ that started the initiatives for the historical district and contributed to the recent growth in downtown Jeffersontown.
But it’s not just his opinion that matters. He has convened a number of community focus groups to get the perspective of various populations, including senior citizens, students and local businesses. In doing so, he has found that the public was eager to welcome shops, restaurants and some nightlife. In order to attract these types of uses, it was important to enhance the public spaces along the streets including better sidewalks, lighting and visual effects to create a unique sense of place.
“That was the jumping-off point from which to build upon the past successes and growing a vibrant downtown community — creating arts and cultural opportunities, including entertainment, restaurants and shops,” Meunier says. “To me, seeing an idea or vision comes naturally. I walk through downtown and see opportunities. But shaping a community-driven vision takes a lot of effort and has a lot of moving parts because we were working with a downtown that’s made up of multiple property owners and various businesses.”
One example that grew from these efforts was the Taylorsville Road Streetscape Plan, a 100% federally funded project, which built new sidewalks and installed decorative street lights that created a visual runway effect as you enter our great city. A cornerstone of this project was the unique design of the steel gateway arches identifying the Historic Gaslight Square District of downtown Jeffersontown.
“These archways let people know that they are arriving at someplace other than where they been,” Meunier adds.
It’s also the little details that matter such as the historical timeline and facts about Jeffersontown that are etched into the glass on the Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello inspired facades located on the town square to the limestone tablets in the sidewalks sharing famous quotes of past community leaders and interesting facts about the City. It creates a destination and reinforces the ‘sense of place’ that is important to a community.
“They say every city gets its heartbeat from its downtown,” Meunier says. “That’s the best part — seeing people enjoy this vision that started with a scratch of paper.”
Another project to watch for in the coming year is the Watterson Trail Streetscape Project, the city’s Main Street, where the city will be installing new wide decorative sidewalks, enhanced pedestrian lighting, a beautiful tree-lined street, along with a more accessible City Hall Plaza, with seating areas, water fountain, enhanced landscaping all which will fast become a local spot to have a pop-up concert on the steps of city hall. Along with this project, the city was fortunate to acquire a portion of the steel structure of one of the World Trade Center Towers in New York City from the New York Fire Department. This special piece of steel that is on display currently at the Jeffersontown Historical Museum will be integrated into a new 9-11/First Responders Plaza next to the Jeffersontown Fire Department on Watterson Trail.
Meunier is incredibly proud of his role in implementing these ideas and creating an atmosphere for the community to enjoy.
Raised on a farm in Tell City, Indiana, Meunier grew up learning to be hands-on. That’s why he enjoys being a part of the whole process — starting from the planning perspective of creating a vision to communicating that idea to elected officials to encouraging buy-in from stakeholders to pursue the initiative, finding the money to make it a reality, then implementing the design and construction of it before finally unveiling it to the public.
Another big undertaking was developing a network of ‘off-road’ bike & pedestrian trails such as the Bluegrass Parkway Bicycle/Pedestrian Trail, Watterson Trail Bike/Pedestrian Trail, and Skyview Park/Grassland Trail. Meunier embarked on another focus group-driven process that involved multiple neighborhood groups and organizations. Over the course of a nine-month period, the focus group came out with a great master plan that improved connectivity, both functionally and recreationally. The goal of the focus group was to create a safe and enjoyable way that everyone could benefit from these trails including families with small children to commuters heading to work.
“People can ride from where they live and work and perhaps riding to a local park or the Gaslight Festival or Farmer’s Market,” he says.
In the Bluegrass Commerce Park, businesses had instituted a wellness program whereby employees were walking around the parking lot for exercise. Now a four-mile trail loop exists for the employers to develop a wellness program.
“Trails promote a healthy lifestyle,” Meunier says. “The benefits of a trail system become even more important when we experience the challenges that we are today with the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Meunier has also been a part of the team that designed the Veterans Memorial Park Master Plan – Military Plaza & ‘Freedom Wall’, which was recently unveiled a year ago and has rapidly become a major destination for the American Veteran to reflect and pay respects to the men and women who have served this great country.
Currently under design is the Veterans Park Amphitheater & Boardwalk Project, which is phase two of the master plan, it will create walking trails, swings and a pedestrian-friendly boardwalk overlooking the tranquil Chenoweth Run Stream with a central amphitheater venue to celebrate the summer season with concerts, orchestras and plays in an attractive outdoor environment.
Meunier takes great delight in overseeing the Jeffersontown Farmers Market, which includes more than 35 vendors each season. Every week, it draws crowds, who come not only for the fresh produce but also for the live entertainment, fun vibes and special events like Pet Day, Chili Cookout and ‘Thank You Blue Day’ to support police & fire departments.
“It’s become a social hot spot — a destination, if you will,” Meunier says. “People bring their kids and pets and make a morning of it.”
Throughout his career, Meunier has worked with a number of different municipalities, and he says he’s impressed by how well Jeffersontown is run.
“The City does an excellent job managing taxpayers’ dollars and delivering a level of services that benefit the residents while maintaining a hometown feel,” says Meunier, noting that though the area is prospering,
Jeffersontown is still seen as a small, personable, family-oriented town.
“People who come here don’t want to leave,” Meunier adds. “They like the amenities and the atmosphere.”
Meunier and his wife Tracy have been married for 31 years and have two grown children, Austin and Lauren. In his free time, he likes mountain biking, hiking, movies, music and sports (he’s a UofL and Purdue fan). He also loves taking family cruises to “anywhere that’s warm!”
“I like bringing people together and enjoying life,” says Meunier, who hosts a garden party at his home every summer with 100-plus people. “My parents were social people. I think I inherited it from them.”
He couldn’t be happier about that.
“Dad always taught me that life is what you make it,” Meunier says. “That you can approach it from a positive or negative frame of mind so why not make it positive?”
He’s applied such lessons to his current position as assistant to the mayor since that job sometimes requires him to field citizen concerns.
“They might have questions about neighborhood-related issues, or a particular drainage or traffic concern, but oftentimes being accessible to the public and giving the residents an opportunity to voice their concerns help create solutions that are mutually beneficial to everyone,” he says. “If you can communicate with someone and reach that level of compromise or understanding, there’s that ‘a-ha moment’ when you think, ‘Okay, maybe I’m on the right track.’”
He recognizes that most people just want to be heard and have the opportunity to know what’s going on.
“It important to take extra care in delivering a level of responsiveness to our community, but the end result is you’ll have a more vibrant and passionate city, where residents cherish their hometown,” he says.
Being a resource to the city has given people a way to even help them help themselves.
“If I can’t help them, I figure out who can. I don’t just say, ‘no.’ I help them get to a ‘yes.’ That’s what I’m here for,” Meunier says. “The way I see it, the more I can help you, the better we serve the community together.”