Last night was crucial for the future of the West Louisville FoodPort.
Louisville Metro Council approved the transfer of the 24-acre property it owns at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard to Seed Capital KY, the nonprofit behind the agriculture hub.
The city will sell the Russell property, which is valued at $1.57 million, to Seed Capital KY for $1. Such deals are not unusual when it comes to redevelopment projects.
“This is an important day for all of West Louisville,” Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton (D-5) said in a statement. “The FoodPort, although located in District 5, is a transformational project that will have a major economic impact on our area with jobs, investment and more importantly the chance for healthy foods for our neighborhoods and city.”
The measure passed 25-to-1 despite last-minute rallying by a few to table it.
The single dissenting vote was from Councilwoman Mary Woolridge (D-3), whose motion to table the ordinance failed to receive a second. Woolridge took issue with selling the property for $1 and stated concerns that Seed Capital KY was involved in back-door dealing to include an anaerobic digester in the project.
After much uproar last year, the digester was dropped from the West Louisville FoodPort.
The nearly $55 million West Louisville FoodPort project will include a vertical farm, a community garden, educational opportunities, retail space, a playground and common area for neighborhood residents, and plenty of space for farmers and food-related businesses to collect, distribute and package products. The project will create more than 300 jobs.
“This project will be a catalyst for other development in West Louisville. It will also provide an opportunity for jobs and opportunity for entrepreneurs and small retailers to help us with fresh foods and vegetables in areas where we need them,” Hamilton said in her statement.
The ordinance must next go to Mayor Greg Fischer, who applauded the council’s vote.
Many residents in Russell and the surrounding neighborhoods have welcomed the West Louisville FoodPort. However, some critics have lobbied against it, saying the process should have included a bidding process and more community input on what should be built at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
The project received necessary approvals from the Board of Zoning Adjustment back in September following a public hearing. At the time, John Owen, vice president of the Portland Business Association, asked the zoning board to reject the project because it didn’t fit into the neighborhood.
“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?”
Martina Kunnecke, president of advocacy group Neighborhood Planning and Preservation, and Kathleen Parks, head of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, argued against the process, stating that there needs to be an open bidding process allowing multiple developers to come forward with ideas for how to redevelop a property.
Kunnecke also said the project does not fill the needs of the community.
“West Louisville needs are not extraordinary, except they continue to be ignored in favor of ideas benefiting those outside the community,” she said in an email. “A fabric shop, bakeries, skating rinks, small businesses run by residents of West Louisville, affordable homes for families of all income levels, reliable public transportation … a Fed-Ex, bookstore or card shop they don’t have to drive to, sit-down restaurants, a swimming pool serving families, etc. The list is long.”
Seed Capital KY has in the past stated that the project is a way to bring agriculture into west Louisville, which is considered a food desert, and to reuse a property left vacant a decade ago by the tobacco company Philip Morris.