Louisville Magazine

MAR 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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78 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.19 WE What will a surge in public and private investment mean for Russell and nearby neighborhoods? Chanelle Helm buries her chin and nose beneath her black scarf, a rather weak defense against the sting of a 20-degree morning. Her black boots crunch across the lawn of a house in the Shawnee neighborhood. She keeps expecting the ground to give a little, but — oh, yeah, everything's frozen. No matter. She and four other Black Lives Matter volunteers go knocking on doors throughout west Louisville on this recent Saturday morning. ey hope to gauge the needs and concerns of west Louisville residents. "I don't understand how people are not doing this," Helm says before sliding some BLM fliers in a storm door. "We need to." About $870 million in investment is currently planned for west Louisville. (Mayor Greg Fischer likes to round that figure up to $1 billion.) In Russell, a new $81-million Passport Health Plan headquarters at 18th Street and Broadway is one of the most expensive projects. However, in late February Passport announces that it is halting construction as the organization tangles with the state over Medicaid rate cuts, which Passport claims could leave the nonprofit insolvent. Should the matter resolve and construction resume, the headquarters will stand across from a new branch of the YMCA scheduled to open this fall. Also underway neighborhood of 10,000 that's 90 percent African-American — is high. Multiple efforts to fight gentrification in west Louisville exist. It's not uncommon to hear about initiatives that will "empower" local residents. "It's nice on paper. It's got to work," says Helm, adding. "e residents will be empowered if they choose to be empowered. People from other places can't come in and empower people. It's just the next step toward revitalization, and what revitalization means is replacement of black and brown people." What west Louisville will look like 20 years from now, that's unknown. And so speculation fills the void. "It's OK to be skeptical," says Joshua Poe, an urban planner and community organizer. "ere's no neighborhood in the country that I can find that's receiving the amount of investment that Russell is getting. Maybe I'm missing something, but just looking at cities undergoing major redevelopment, they're not getting the amount of dollars Russell is getting." (Russell alone is slated to receive about $300 million in investment.) Property values will likely rise, and rents could creep up. e Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator's office is reassessing west Louisville neighborhoods this year, and the Louisville Urban League is working to educate property owners on the appeal process should appraisals balloon. Janet Kelly, a professor of urban and public affairs at the University of Louisville and executive director of the Urban Studies Institute, says, "When Germantown became all the rage, is that good or bad? If we see economic activity increasing values of property, then that is going to create winners and losers just like it did in Germantown." THE BILLION- DOLLAR QUESTION in Russell: a $187-million transformation of the Beecher Terrace public-housing complex into mixed-income housing, slated for completion in 2023. e list of other projects goes on, stretching from Portland to Shawnee to California to Russell, which is a rectangular neighborhood bounded by Broadway and 32nd, Ninth and Market streets. Russell is an appealing spot because it's the last area to touch downtown and as of yet not experience a rush of development. In the world of city government and business, this windfall is cited as long- overdue progress, something to cheer for. Helm is worried, cautious. As lead organizer of Louisville BLM, she sees what's happening west of Ninth as mostly outsiders (as in, people who are not from west Louisville) finally seeing value in a long-neglected part of town and gripping the controls, orchestrating the renaissance as they see fit. For years, city leaders cradled downtown, nurturing its revival. Now, more polished and popular than it has been in decades, sights are swiveling west, Helm observes, into areas that shoulder significant struggle. In Russell, for instance, about 60 percent of the population lives in poverty, including about 3,000 children. Median household income is $14,500. And in the north- central section of Russell, one in four households had an eviction filed against it in 2016. A recent report commissioned by the city's Office of Housing and Community Development states that areas west of downtown have household incomes about half the city's area median income of $71,500 for a family of four. at same report mentions that, as a result of investment, the risk for displacement in Russell — a

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