Following the cancellation of two high-profile projects in West Louisville, the city’s top economic development director gave Louisville Metro Council’s Labor & Economic Development Committee a status update on business growth and continuing projects in the West End.
“While we lament the loss of a couple of projects recently, we’ve got one really big opportunity in the pipeline, and we’ve already scored early successes there,” said Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, chief of Louisville Forward, referring to Vision Russell, a broadbased plan to bring mixed-income housing and improved services to the Russell neighborhood.
The city already received a $950,000 Choice Neighborhoods planning grant and a $1.375 million Choice Neighborhoods action grant from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development. The city is accepting ideas for how to use the action grant; the deadline is Nov. 22.
It also is a finalist for an up to $29.5 million Choice Neighborhoods grant that would help further carry out its Vision Russell plan. The city expects to hear back about that grant next month.
“Winning this Choice grant is very important to us. Whether we win it this year or next year, being a finalist is wonderful affirmation of that work and the good things that have already been going on,” Wiederwohl said, adding that there already is positive development occurring without the grant. “We would not have become a finalist if we didn’t have Chef Space, if we didn’t already have all this investment in housing, if we had not been successful at our Hope VI grants.”
The grant would be a big victory for West Louisville redevelopment efforts after the multimillion-dollar West Louisville FoodPort and the more than $30 million Walmart were nixed. Both the Walmart and FoodPort were viewed as catalyst projects that would attract further investment and development in the areas of West Louisville where they were supposed to be developed.
“If the Russell redevelopment occurs in the way that we hope with this Choice grant, then we will create new rooftops that will definitely lead to new retail,” Wiederwohl said.
The city is still talking next steps and potential future development with the Bridgewaters, the couple who own the property at 18th and Broadway where Walmart had planned to build, she said. As for 24-acre former FoodPort site at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, the city is talking to members of the West Louisville Community Council about how they would like to see it developed.
“Right now, we are focused on working with the West Louisville Community Council to make sure whatever we do is a next step we do together as a community,” Wiederwohl said.
The community council has put forth ideas about an athletic complex, something dedicated to food businesses, a market, manufacturing uses and proposed education uses, she said. “It truly does run the gamut.”
The city has received inquires from developers interested in the property, but has postponed any serious talks with developers for now, Wiederwohl said.
Despite the setbacks, Wiederwohl said the city is sticking to the same general development plan for West Louisville’s revitalization.
“I wouldn’t say that anything we are doing is a redrawing or a change in our direction. We are continuing on our strategy of neighborhood redevelopment,” she said.
Economic indicators show that the city is going through a renaissance, which will help all neighborhoods, Wiederwohl said. Still, it will take a lot of hard work to bring economic growth to West Louisville after decades of disinvestment.
“Community redevelopment is one of the hardest things this city can try to do,” she said. “What’s different now is you’ve got all these good things happening: You have a commitment to it. You have great intentionality. You have public and private dollars going into these efforts.”
Below is the slideshow Wiederwohl presented at the committee meeting. It details many of the projects that have taken place, are in-progress or are planned in West Louisville, including the Cedar Street housing development Insider Louisville reported on Wednesday.