By Councilwoman Angela Leet
By now, you have heard about the proposal to build a new VA hospital in the East End at Brownsboro Road and I-264. As an engineer I’m a trained problem-solver, and what I envision for our community is an opportunity to set a new course and watch Louisville become a national leader in the provision of health care for veterans. We can all agree that the brave men and women who’ve sacrificed so much in service to this country have earned the right to the very best our nation can offer in health care. So if building a new hospital is what the veterans of this community need, then let’s build them a new, modern, high-tech health care facility. But let’s do it wisely, with a vision that not only supports our veterans but also benefits and transforms our community.
Let’s do it in such a way that this nearly $1 billion VA investment is leveraged to have the greatest impact for all of us. Vision Russell, a Metro Louisville initiative, presents a unique opportunity for this city to combine two significant federal investments in our community. Vision Russell has already received a $950,000 Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant and a $1.375 million HUD Choice Neighborhoods Action Grant. Louisville is also now a finalist for a grant that could represent a HUD investment of up to $29.5 million in our community. Mayor Fischer’s administration has initiated a planning process that would be an “extensive neighborhood planning effort to develop and implement a community-driven and financially feasible transformation plan for the area between Market Street and Broadway and from Ninth to 32nd Street.” As part of this nearly $300 million revitalization it has been said that the city will raze Beecher Terrace and replace it with mixed use development and mixed incoming housing.
Interestingly, the Beecher Terrace property, which the city owns, is 34 acres. Coincidentally, the proposed East End site for the new VA Hospital off Brownsboro Road is also 34 acres. With the right leadership the city could layer these two substantial federal investments in our community to make a more impactful transformation and save our nation more than $100 million in the process. Let’s show the VA that with the established infrastructure, proximity to veterans, and the untapped potential of the Russell neighborhood, veterans could easily access the health care they need right off the Ninth Street ramp.
Imagine with me a project that links downtown to an emerging job center west of Ninth Street. Imagine further that the veterans would only have to take a 20 minute TARC ride from Dixie Highway to see their doctor, rather than taking a nearly 2-hour ride to an East End location. Wouldn’t it be an amazing testament to this community’s commitment to its veterans if we renamed Ninth Street to Veterans Parkway? VA employees and veterans could live in a new mixed-income, multi-use neighborhood and walk or bike right across the street to work or to receive care. Perhaps this is all too logical and makes too much sense, but to me a $1 billion rock thrown into a river should make waves that are talked about for generations. If done correctly this project could be a first step in conquering the east/west divide, which could truly begin to unite our community in ways we’ve only imagined.
Whether you are a concerned veteran or a concerned community member who cares how your tax dollars are spent I would encourage you to get involved in the planning process of this new hospital. Please attend one of today’s public hearings (at noon or 6 p.m. — more details below) or submit comments to the VA regarding their Environmental Impact Statement. Written comments may be submitted through Dec. 12, 2016, on-line at www.Louisville-EIS.com, by email to [email protected] or regular mail to:
Robley Rex VAMC
Replacement VAMC Activation Team Office (Attn: Judy Williams)
800 Zorn Ave.
Louisville, KY 40207
VA Hospital Public Hearings
Tuesday, Nov. 15
Noon to 2 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.
Christ Church United Methodist Church
4614 Brownsboro Road
Louisville, KY 40207