With two unanimous votes from the Louisville Board of Zoning Adjustment on Monday, nonprofit Seed Capital Ky now has the go-ahead to finalize details of the West Louisville FoodPort and close out funding for the $24 million project.
“Together with many of our partners …we are delighted to move this project forward,” said Stephen Reily, co-founder of Seed Capital Ky.
Reily added that he was excited to see community support at the meeting and also hopes to work with the individuals who voiced their opposition.
The project received variances and waivers that will allow the buildings to be set back from the street, have some parking in front for visitors without a 3-foot masonry wall, and permit the 177,205 square feet of buildings to run zigzag across the 24-acre property at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
The board also approved the overall plan under the condition that the landscaping be consistent with what was shown in the renderings.
According to Reily, the approvals were crucial to the project’s continuation because the architects and contractors now know what they are building and can therefore draw up real cost estimates.
The cost estimates are needed for Seed Capital Ky to secure New Market Tax Credits. Reily said the project already has lined up organizations that are ready to include the West Louisville FoodPort as part of its tax credit allocation for the year once the costs are finalized.
The nonprofit plans to raise about one-third of the project’s funding through tax credits. The current estimated cost of the food port is $24 million, not including any investments made by private businesses that locate at the site.
Several people spoke in favor of the food port project, which would serve as a hub for regional farmers and food producers to collect, distribute and package products. It also would include a mile-long walking trail, a visitors center, a demonstration garden, offices and retail space.
It would create an estimated 275 construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs, according to Seed Capital Ky’s website.
“Our community lacks jobs, and this is one of the first facilities that we hope we can have jobs that aren’t minimum wage,” said Bonnie Cole, a Shawnee resident and member of the food port’s community council. “You are going to bring hope into our community. It is just something we have been looking forward to.”
Seed Capital Ky created the council to gather input from residents about what they’d like to see at the food port. It has 58 members, just more than half of whom work and/or live in west Louisville.
John Owen, vice president of the Portland Business Association, said he was against awarding the food port the variances and waivers because it did not fit the neighborhood. He was one of four people to speak against the project.
“We are not against the food port, but we want it done right,” Owen said. “Do we preserve the character of the neighborhood, which this board is in charge of, or do we grant another variance? …I think the variance request is preposterous.”
However, the board ultimately decided to push the project forward.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted his support for the zoning board’s decision.
“The FoodPort will be one of the most dynamic, innovative projects in Louisville,” the mayor tweeted. “The developers and the community are working together to create a development that will be unique and best-in-world.”