West End YMCA To Open In December Monday, Nov 25 2019 

17th and Broadway YMCA Front EntranceLouisville’s newest YMCA, at 18th Street and Broadway, will open on Dec. 14, officials said Friday.

The YMCA missed its planned October opening due to construction delays, officials said at the time. It is one of several major developments taking place in west Louisville, and the first to be completed.

The facility sits across the street from the stalled development of a new corporate headquarters for Passport Health Plan. And about 12 blocks west of there, construction on the Louisville Urban League’s track and field complex is underway.

These projects plus the renovation of Beecher Terrace are the largest in a planned mass investment that could total hundreds of millions of dollars. The neighborhoods of west Louisville have not seen that kind of development in decades, due to government policies that were designed to block investment.

The new facility cost $28 million and spans more than 77,000 square feet.

Along with exercise facilities such as a fitness center and pool, the YMCA will offer health and job training resources, including a center to train teens for jobs that require technology skills

In West Louisville, Nonprofit’s Small Developer Loans Target Vacant Properties Thursday, Nov 14 2019 

The mostly African American neighborhoods of west Louisville were intentionally cut off from investment and homeownership due to decades of discriminatory policies. But these days, there’s a lot of capital going into that area, especially in Russell. Part of that neighborhood has a median income of just slightly more than $9,000.

LHOME, a local nonprofit lender, says it wants to put more capital in the hands of west Louisville residents, many of whom have some of the lowest incomes in the county and suffer from a lack of affordable housing. Its new small developer loans product aims to help people who live in those neighborhoods renovate vacant and abandoned properties for their own use or to rent out affordably.

At an annual meeting on Tuesday, CEO Amy Shir said organizations like LHOME — a Community Development Financial Institution, which is a private lender that lends money to low-income people — weren’t created to fix historic problems like redlining, but they are part of the solution.

“CDFIs were created to provide access to capital for people who were purposefully, intentionally and wrongfully excluded from the economic mainstream,” she said. “Providing access to capital does not solve all of society’s problems. But it is a critical tool for social, racial and economic justice.”

Last month, LHOME launched its business loan product aimed at small developers, with half a million dollars set aside to give loans of up to $30,000. Shir said the loans are aimed at people with a “certain level of sophistication,” perhaps those who have renovated houses before.

One early recipient is Marcus Harris, who runs a nonprofit organization called Pride Leadership Academy where he teaches kids different skills in areas like construction, agriculture and sustainability. He said at the event a loan from LHOME will help him work on a house he bought this year. Previously, he struggled to get loans because he didn’t have a proven track record.

“Having somebody that trusted in us just gave us the opportunity and the resources … to actually get out and do what we needed to create our own sustainability to kind of fund some of the programs that will help us change the community for real,” he said.

Shir said the nonprofit’s preference is to have neighborhood residents invested in these types of properties, rather than outsiders.

“It keeps the culture of the neighborhood for the people who have lived there for generations. If we allow outside speculators to buy up all the properties and own all the stuff, and then drive up the property taxes then the people who have lived in those neighborhoods, who built those neighborhoods, the churches, all the fabric is undermined because people are displaced,” she said.

But can LHOME’s small developer loan product keep people in their neighborhoods? Urban development researcher James Fraser, who has studied gentrification in Nashville, thinks there’s a chance.

“This is a type of program that sounds like it has the potential to create some positive neighborhood change in terms of decreasing for example, abandoned buildings or vacant buildings,” he said.

He said there probably aren’t any direct downsides to LHOME’s small developer loans program, and abandoned buildings clearly have a negative impact on many residents in low-income neighborhoods. But he warned that if lots of these types of efforts happen at once, neighborhoods can change before residents realize it.

“And all of a sudden the neighborhood is viewed by capital investors as a place where they can place their money to make a profit,” he said, “then there have to be additional resources put in play for folks that live there.”

Fixing up vacant buildings can contribute to rising property values, property taxes and rent. And that can make it more difficult for people to continue affording to live in their neighborhoods.

Shir said she is working on an advocacy campaign to encourage state legislators to cap property values for west Louisville residents. State law currently prohibits Louisville from making that kind of change, though it’s something Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has said he has asked for, too. Rent control, another measure some say protects low-earners from rising housing costs, is also illegal in Kentucky.

Regardless, changing the law can take years. And current west Louisville residents say they’re already seeing their neighborhoods change and become less affordable.

Fraser said intervention is needed.

“There needs to be a suite of having related policies that respond to the challenges that low income families face in the area,” he said. “So it’s not only about say, property tax increases, it’s not only about rent price increases, possibly, but it’s really also about making sure that multifamily apartment buildings remain affordable for people.”

Louisville’s eviction rate is nearly double the national average, and without protective policies in place, Fraser said the cumulative effect of developer loans like LHOME’s could have an unintended consequence: forcing people out of their homes.

Louisville Urban League’s Track Gets $5 Million And A Name From Norton Healthcare Monday, Oct 14 2019 

The Louisville Urban League announced a major fundraising gift for its track and field project Monday; it’s the first of this scale in nearly a year. But CEO and president Sadiqa Reynolds said the nonprofit isn’t done yet.

Norton Healthcare pledged $5 million to the project in the form of a $3 million grant and an additional $2 million matching challenge, and with that bought the naming rights to the facility. It will be known as the Norton Sports Health Athletics & Learning Complex.

City and nonprofit leaders hailed the investment as a major commitment to a project that some say could contribute to transforming the West End of Louisville, which has suffered from discriminatory policies and a lack of investment for decades.

“It’s the right thing to do, and it’s way past time to do it.,” said Russell Cox, president and CEO of Norton Healthcare, of the investment.

Norton Sports Health Athletics & Learning Complex

A rendering of the Norton Sports Health Athletics & Learning Complex.

Reynolds, typically outspoken, was cautiously celebratory after a press conference Monday morning.

“I feel pretty good today,” she said. “I have to keep it in perspective, or I get a little bit overwhelmed just thinking about it all, but I do. I feel good.”

The Norton investment brings the total for the facility’s capital campaign to about $24 million.

Amina Elahi | wfpl.org

Sadiqa Reynolds of the Louisville Urban League and Russell Cox of Norton Healthcare at the naming announcement on Monday, October 14, 2019.

Last November, the James Graham Brown Foundation put in $3 million. The project also got $10 million from Louisville Metro via a bond, which was almost held up amid last spring’s budget confusion.

In June, the Louisville Urban League launched a campaign called Run With Us, through which it aimed to raise $20 million by selling naming rights to the complex’s 4,000 seats for $5,000 apiece. When the group broke ground on the site in August, it raised about $300,000 that day from seat sales.

Reynolds said Monday that overall seat sales have been fine, but not as strong as she expected. They’ve sold about 250 seats.

There are more fundraising opportunities to consider, too. Reynolds said Opportunity Zone investment is an option, as are New Markets Tax Credits. She said the Urban League could net about $6 million from those credits.

For more context on how the track and field complex fits into overall development taking place in west Louisville, listen to this episode of Here Today:

West End YMCA Opening Delayed Past October Target Wednesday, Sep 18 2019 

17th and Broadway YMCA Front EntranceA state of the art YMCA facility under construction near 18th St. and Broadway is a bit behind schedule.

Until recently, the $28 million facility facility was expected to open in October. But officials now say that will be pushed to an unspecified date this fall.

Steve Tarver, CEO of YMCA Greater Louisville, said in a statement that the organization is excited to open the facility, which will span 77,000 square feet, this fall.

“Our original opening date of October was based on preliminary construction projections. As part of the routine construction process the opening has been moved to later this fall,” he said. “Our efforts remain focused on bringing the community a state-of-the-art facility.”

The YMCA is one of a handful of major projects in west Louisville contributing to a level of investment in that part of the city that has not been seen for decades due to discriminatory policies and a resulting lack of business interest. Of the major projects, is the furthest along in its progress.

The intersection of 18th and Broadway is expected to be a locus of investment, if plans pan out. In January, the city opened a realigned intersection that it invested $1.2 million to create.

At the time, Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement that the project “helps to make this critical intersection a foundation for even more investment in West Louisville.”

On the north side of Broadway, non-profit OneWest, which promotes commercial real estate development, is working on plans to redevelop a strip of buildings.

But across the street from the YMCA is the stalled framing of the new corporate headquarters of Medicaid provider Passport Health Plan. That project is on hold amid the company’s financial struggles.

Learn more about planned investments in west Louisville in this episode of the WFPL podcast Here Today:

West Louisville Residents Suggest Paths To Revitalization Without Gentrification Monday, Sep 16 2019 

Residents and stakeholders gathered at a "Responsible Revitalization" SymposiumAround 100 residents and stakeholders gathered Friday for a forum about responsible revitalization in Louisville’s West End, offering policy suggestions to improve their neighborhoods without pushing out current residents.

The forum was hosted by the nonprofit OneWest, which is also buying properties and retail spaces across west Louisville..

WFPL has followed concerns about gentrification in the West End as part of our podcast Here Today — where we investigated the city’s history of disinvestment in the area and talked to officials and affected residents about planned new investments. On Friday, Metro Councilwoman Jessica Green said the OneWest forum could empower residents to become involved in the process and let their voices be heard.

“Too many times people in west Louisville have felt that the powers that be have just tried to push things down their throat,” Green said. “But any time we can engage with the people and let them have an active role and active voice in terms of what they believe works, I think that we all come out as winners.”

Here’s what some residents had to say:

  • “[Developers] come in, they get the money, they’re gone and then we’re stuck with their property,” Joe McNealy said of abandoned properties, adding that he thinks the city should hold more developers accountable. “We as taxpayers have to pay for what they leave us behind.”
  • “Ownership of the land is a critical aspect of protecting the community,” Greg Wright said.
  • “We can’t put the onus only on developers or only on investors,” Frank McNeal. “The issue is beyond merely developers. It’s community, it’s governmental agencies, it’s a number of players.”
  •  “[In] 2008, the economy crashed. Everybody’s mortgage went to crap across the nation, I don’t know how we could have prevented that,” Jeffrey Thompson said. “What fell through the crack in my opinion is that we didn’t have the backing from the city. We were forgotten about.”
Russell residents discuss how to address problems they see in the neighborhood at "responsible revitalization" symposiumKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Russell residents discuss how to address problems they see in the neighborhood at “responsible revitalization” symposium

Nearly $1 billion in investments are planned for west Louisville, including funding for projects like a new YMCA, a sports and learning complex, an arts and culture district and an overhaul of the Beecher Terrace housing development.

Louisville Metro Council President David James, who moderated Friday’s forum, said he plans to take residents’ concerns and suggestions to the city.

At Future Site Of West Louisville’s Track And Field Complex, Some Residents Are Concerned About Cleanup Plan Thursday, Sep 12 2019 

Residents are raising concerns about plans to clean up land slated for the Louisville Urban League’s Sports and Learning Complex.

The complex is being built on a brownfield at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard — contaminated soil where an old tobacco plant used to be. At a Russell Neighborhood Association forum Wednesday, officials said the Urban League will pay around $315,000 to cap the contaminated soil and truck in some new soil. Louisville is funding the cleanup with a $350,000 grant from its federally-funded Brownfield Cleanup Loan Program, and as part of its agreement with the city the Urban League must pay out-of-pocket to annually inspect the cap.

Metro Government Brownfields and Community Engagement Strategist Allison Smith said the city believes this method will be sufficient to protect public health.

“When it’s capped, there is no contact with it. So the effect on public health is potentially minuscule because, again, you have to actually have direct contact with it for it to affect you,” she said. “So it’s the same protection on public health as if you removed it.”

Completely removing the soil would have been more expensive: around $459,200. But resident Alicia Fox said the Urban League should have paid more to remove the soil completely.

“Is really $100,000 so much more to raise considering the long term effect?” Fox said. “That $100,000 is going to not have us continuously monitor to make sure the area is safe, to not have to spend that long-term money.

Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds broke ground on the site last month; at the time, she said the organization had raised about $19 million of the project’s estimated $40 million cost. Officials have praised the site since plans for it were announced last year and welcomed its potential benefits for west Louisville neighborhoods. But neighborhood activist Jackie Floyd said the Urban League has not communicated with residents about many aspects, including environmental cleanup, since winning approval for the development.

“If you’re building something in the community, you’re developing something in the community,  then you know people are going to have these questions,” Floyd said. “The bottom line is it is [their] responsibility to educate the community about their facility.”

Capping for the brownfield starts September 19. Representatives of the Urban League were unavailable for comment Thursday.

‘Miracle’ On 30th Street: Urban League Breaks Ground On Sports Complex Tuesday, Aug 27 2019 

By the end of 2020, the Louisville Urban League plans to transform 24 acres of contaminated land in west Louisville into an indoor-outdoor track and field complex that will be a place for families and students to gather and learn.

Political, faith and community leaders joined Sadiqa Reynolds, CEO and president of the Louisville Urban League, to break ground on the abandoned site at 30th St. and Muhammad Ali Blvd. on Tuesday afternoon.

The event was part celebration, part fundraiser, with Councilwoman Keisha Dorsey (D-3) leading the gathered crowd in a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and supporters pledging nearly $300,000 in funds for the project.

That brought the total raised to nearly $19 million, although Reynolds said the group needs $40 million to execute her complete vision, which includes an indoor track on hydraulics that can be lowered to host concerts or fencing competitions, outdoor wildlife classrooms, bowling alleys and healthy food concessions.

Amina Elahi | wfpl.org

Pastor F. Bruce Williams leads supporters of the Louisville Urban League track and field complex in prayer.

It was a scene embedded with faith, with Pastor F. Bruce Williams of Bates Memorial Baptist Church opening the ceremony with a prayer.

“Father, we thank you for this moment,” he began. “We believe that this is holy ground. And that you and your mysterious Providence has kept this in Divine escrow, for this moment, for this revolutionary purpose.”

Later, Reynolds recalled her prayers for a solution when the Foodport project planned for the site — which had been contaminated by tobacco manufacturers and subsequently became vacant — fell through.

She said she sees it as an answer to the redlining and neglect that afflicted this area and led to its current economically depressed state.

“To me, an investment in this project is an exact response to a redlining report,” Reynolds said. “You are saying, ‘We have read the data, we have seen the data, it is broken policy that has created this and we are going to invest in the fix.”

Amina Elahi | wfpl.org

30th and Muhammad Ali, the future site of the Louisville Urban League’s Sports and Learning Complex

Reynolds referred to the “miracle” of getting the projects to this point, which she said is enough to fund the first phase of the complex. That includes building the outdoor track and purchasing a prefabricated building to house the indoor track.

And she said the groundbreaking doesn’t mark the end of the League’s fundraising campaign. Earlier this summer, the group launched a marketing effort to raise $20 million by selling naming rights to the facility’s planned 4,000 seats for $5,000 apiece.

On Tuesday, individuals and groups purchased more than three dozen seats. Reynolds said there are “plenty” more available, though she did not give more detail.

The complex is one of four major projects currently planned for west Louisville. The others are a new YMCA that will open this fall, the redevelopment of Beecher Terrace and the stalled Passport corporate headquarters. Learn more about them here.

Last week, the League purchased the land — which was recently declared a surplus property by Louisville Metro — for $1. If The city also invested $10 million into the project through a bond.