Louisville Magazine

JUN 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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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 6.19 75 Gentrication. ere's the word, one that's used so much the meaning has either been diluted or complicated. "Gentrication describes a problem of neighborhood change," says Kelly Kinahan, a professor with the University of Louisville's Department in Urban and Public A•airs. "Wealthier people moving into lower-income, non-white neighborhoods in particular. It describes a process, but being able to say this is (gentrication) and this isn't is much harder. ere's no hard, fast line." Shelby Park's worth, the rock and dirt on which it sits, and a foundation up through a roof, is on a steep ascent. A square foot of home in Shelby Park was valued at $63 in 2016. By 2018: $95. "is is an anomaly like what Germantown experienced," one realtor told me. Talk to renters; they've had to adjust. Median rent as of 2016 was $500 to $600. It's nearly impossible to nd any place in Shelby Park with rent that low now, I'm told repeatedly. One evening, I meet a woman who works third shift at the main post o›ce on Gardiner Lane. She cradles her infant grandson and watches her friend's grandson play samurai with a stick. She rents with her friend, though the landlord plans to sell his property when the lease ends. "We've been looking around the area. e house down there," she says, pointing to a shotgun down the street, "I called and it was $799 (a month). It's a one-bedroom. ere's no o•-street parking. I didn't see a whole lot of amenities. is don't make sense to me." She says she'll probably look in the South End. (I did speak with a handful of renters who have not endured any rent increase in years.) Some in Shelby Park are adamant that gentrication is not happening. ey point to sincere e•orts by the Shelby Park Neighborhood Association (SPNA), a group that has partnered with and even recruited nonprot developers into the neighborhood so that homes can be renovated and sold below market rate. And the neighborhood association has made a commitment: While it wants homeownership to increase in the area, especially in empty, aging homes, it also wants the neighborhood to remain at least 50 percent rental properties. Another evening I meet Robert Bell at a neighborhood association meeting, tucked in the bare basement of what 100 years ago was a library, then a community center and now, mostly, a gathering spot for meetings and a twice-weekly afterschool music program. Bell moved to the area with his family four years ago. He likes to share this anecdote about SPNA's mindset: For the last few years, they've organized a Renovation Expo and Open House, a way to showcase the neighborhood with tours and workshops. As part of the event, SPNA wanted to include House of Ruth, a Shelby Park-based nonprot that provides services to low-income individuals with HIV and AIDS. ey also invited the Volunteers of America family shelter on Preston Street to have a presence. Bell says he and another SPNA board member were talking to the vice president of a prominent bank about the event and that she paused at the mention of VOA and House of Ruth. "She said something along the lines of, 'Are you sure that's how you want to represent your neighborhood?'" Bell recalls. "And we said, 'ese are our neighbors. is is what we take pride in. If people have problems with that, we don't want them to live here.'" German immigrants settled Shelby Park in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, then-Mayor Paul Barth noted that a large number of families with men working in nearby factories, including the Hillerich & Bradsby Co. Louisville Slugger factory, had no place convenient for recreation. e city bought 17 acres from the Caldwells, a wealthy family with ties to European royalty. (Street names in the area —«Gwendolyn and Caldwell —«nod to the family's legacy.) e rm founded by Frederick Law Olmsted designed the park. Neighbors each donated $2 to purchase land for a Carnegie library that opened at the north edge of the park in 1911. Track meets brought hundreds of spectators to the neighborhood park. Tennis courts were popular, as was a large circular pool built by the War Recreation Board for soldiers at Camp Zachary Taylor. (Old Courier-Journal articles document "Body Beautiful" contests at the pool and a shortage of swimsuits for rent because crowds were so large.) Shelby Park remained solidly working class for decades, with families living in Queen Anne-style and shotgun houses. In the 1930s, Shelby Park and nearby Smoketown were hit with redlining, the practice of denying loans in a neighborhood due to its racial and socioeconomic makeup. Back then, the Home Owners' Loan Corp. (HOLC) created maps with shades of various colors depending on what HOLC determined was their strength for investment — red indicating the worst areas. A HOLC document for Shelby Park and Smoketown lists that 20 percent of the population were "Negros" (an undesirable characteristic according to HOLC). Other detrimental in¯uences in the area: industrial plants, saloons and a city incinerator. Longtime residents remember that garbage incinerator. One woman says soot would cover her car and home some mornings up until it closed in the '90s. Redlining made it di›cult for residents to secure mortgages and mortgage insurance. Many white families headed east. And so the segregation of Louisville grew. at Shelby Park remained a mix of white and black residents may be due to its location, at the con¯uence of largely white Germantown and predominantly black Smoketown. Over the decades, older residents passed away and homes sat in limbo. By the '80s and '90s, plenty of drug dealers were openly selling on street corners. Prostitutes claimed space on Preston Street and shootings in the park multiplied. Maintenance at the park deteriorated. (Some complain grass is still way too high, way too often.) e circular pool that had long-since closed made way for another pool, a•ectionately known as "Big L" because of its shape. at also closed, in 2007. e people who have lived in Shelby Park during the last half-century are a sturdy, loyal lot. ey formed an active neighborhood association that managed to ght o• a proposal by the city in 1999 to turn the old library into a school, which would have e•ectively cut o• half of the park to residents. Betty Kolb was secretary of the neighborhood association in the '90s and early 2000s. She and her parents moved to Shelby Park 40 years ago, no matter the naysayers of the time. "People who lived in Germantown thought we were the West End," she says. Kolb, who on the day we talk is watching her pigtailed granddaughter bounce around the park, has this nal thought: "It's the place to live. Highlands are there, Germantown there, Old Louisville there,"

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