A new rendering of the food port omits the digester, leaving the property open for future development. | Courtesy of Seed Capital Kentucky
A new rendering of the food port omits the digester, leaving the property open for future development. | Courtesy of Seed Capital Kentucky

Seed Capital Kentucky, the nonprofit behind the West Louisville FoodPort, has decided to cut a proposed anaerobic digester out of its project.

Seed Capital today submitted revised plans, which omit the anaerobic digester, to Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government. The West Louisville FoodPort will be located on 24 acres of land at 30th Street between Muhammad Ali Boulevard and Main Street.

The decision came after months of complaints and concerns from west Louisville residents about increased traffic, odor, and potential health and safety hazards.

Metro Councilwoman Jessica Green, D-1, summoned up many residents’ opinions last week at an informational meeting at the Louisville Urban League.

“We have 50 years of history here with us feeling discarded and dumped on,” Green said at the meeting. “They don’t understand — we don’t want to be guinea pigs.”

Indiana-based alternative energy company Nature’s Methane planned to construct the digester — which turns organic waste such as food and wood chips into methane gas — on a portion of the property. The project was estimated to cost $35 million and take up 5.5 acres, and would have created 10 jobs.

“While we still believe that a composting and renewable energy facility like the digester represented a safe and appropriate feature for this project, the FoodPort will keep listening to its neighbors, and we have decided to remove the digester from our current plans,” according to a statement attributed to Seed Capital co-founders Stephen Reily and Caroline Heine.

IL could not reach Steve Estes, CEO of Nature’s Methane’s parent company Star Distributed Energy. However, Estes told The Courier-Journal — which broke the story this morning — that a second proposed digester project is on hold for now following the collapse of the FoodPort partnership. The second project had been proposed for 15th Street between Breckenridge and Maple streets.

Heine and representatives from Nature’s Methane have been hosting meetings in west Louisville to familiarize residents with the projects and answer questions. The meetings at times became antagonistic, with some residents standing up to denounce the project and shouting about the harm they believe the project would cause.

However, many of the same residents who were against the digester noted they supported other aspects of the West Louisville FoodPort.

Aside from dropping the digester, the FoodPort otherwise will proceed as planned. For the first phase of the project, Seed Capital will raise and invest more than $25 million, according to a news release about the divestment of the digester.

The FoodPort will create at least 200 permanent jobs, which Seed Capital and its partners hope to fill with residents from the surrounding neighborhoods, the release stated.

“This project is one of the most dynamic projects in our city’s recent history; it has the potential to become a national model, and it’s being constructed in Russell, a neighborhood that will significantly benefit from the jobs and innovation it creates,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in the release.

The West Louisville FoodPort still will include a collection, distribution and packaging operation for regional farmers to prepare their food before selling it; a community garden; a farmers market; retail space; a playground and common area for neighborhood residents; and opportunities for educational classes.

Businesses with agreements to locate at the West Louisville FoodPort are:

  • KHI Foods, a food processing company
  • The Weekly Juicery, a Lexington-based cold-pressed juice business that will have a commissary and possible retail operation
  • Jefferson County Cooperative Extension, a government-created education organization that will host garden and horticulture courses
  • JustOne Organics, a California-based company that will set up operations to dehydrate organic fruits and vegetables
  • Piazza Produce, a family-run food distribution company that delivers local and regional foods throughout Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky
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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]