Mayor Greg Fischer cuts the ribbon on the World Affairs Council's new Portland office.
Mayor Greg Fischer cuts the ribbon on the World Affairs Council’s new Portland office. | Photo by Michelle Eigenheer

On Wednesday, the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana cut the ribbon on its new headquarters, in the Portland neighborhood at 2500 Montgomery St. In attendance were Mayor Greg Fischer and Gill Holland, whose Portland Investment Initiative played a large part in making WAC’s new home.

WAC is a nonprofit organization that works to promote cross-cultural awareness, tolerance and education. To this end, the group hosts a speaker series, an international visitors program and education initiatives with the community and schools.

The building was previously a school, and then a Civil War hospital serving those wounded at the Battle of Perryville. PII purchased the property four years ago, with the intention of creating a social, nonprofit incubator space. Along with WAC, the building will also house Anchal Project, Sister Cities and Interfaith Paths to Peace.

The move to Portland was a deliberate one. Formerly, the World Affairs Council offices were on Broadway in a JCPS building that was sold. When he learned about the sale, Adel S. Elmaghraby, chairman of the board of directors, knew that he wanted the organization’s next moves to be significant. He made a call to Holland and told him: “We want to move to Portland. We want to be part of the thrill, the movement. We want to bring the world to Portland.”

“It’s all about the people — the people coming here, engaging with the neighborhood.” Elmaghraby said. “We are bringing things [here], not just having an office here. Success is when we engage with the community.”

With additional space and community support, WAC will be able to expand its education initiatives and speaker programs. It will be partnering with 10 schools in Jefferson County and the rest of Kentucky for a Global Citizenship Certification Program to educate the next generation on global political and cultural issues.

The new WAC space features displays of gifts given by many international visitors the organization has hosted over the years. | Photo by Michelle Eigenheer
The new WAC space features displays of gifts given by many international visitors the organization has hosted over the years. | Photo by Michelle Eigenheer

“However much you may like it or not, this is a post-global world and they need to learn about it,” said WAC Executive Director Xiao Yin Zhao. “Educating this generation is really important.”

WAC will also host more pop-up events, such as a recent Brexit discussion, which featured British natives and political science experts, speaking on the realistic significance of the issue.

The move to Portland offers a lot of opportunities for growth and advancement for both WAC and the community, Zhao said, “It’s time for the World Affairs Council to be bold.”

Correction: The original version of this story listed the wrong address for the new World Affairs Council HQ.