Business First of Louisville: West End needs a ‘visible win’

Posted Monday May 08, 2017 by OneWest

Jan 30, 2017, 10:01am EST
By Marty Finley, Business First Reporter

A West Louisville advocacy group that formed in 2014 has been meticulous in outlining its directives, and now the organization is moving ahead on a five-year strategic plan that will be publicly unveiled later this week.

OneWest, a nonprofit organization that emerged out of Leadership Louisville Center’s Bingham Fellows program, has designed a four-tier plan that focuses on commercial and mixed-use development, capacity building, advocacy and ongoing community engagement.

It will be presented Thursday evening during a community conversation from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, 1701 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. The event is free, and guests can RSVP at info@onewest.org.

OneWest bills itself as a “unity development corporation” designed to leverage private and public capital to create sustainable economic development and neighborhood revitalization in partnership with the roughly 60,000 residents in West Louisville’s nine neighborhoods. That focus extends to land use, infrastructure and urban design in shaping the built environment experience.

OneWest’s 28-member board is stacked with influential Louisville business, civic and government officials, including developer Steve Poe of Poe Cos.; Michael Ash, regional president of Fifth Third Bank Kentucky; Maureen Brekka, senior vice president of global strategy for Brown-Forman Corp.; Jeff Bringardner, regional vice president of Humana Inc.; the Rev. Kevin Cosby, president of Simmons College of Kentucky; David Tandy, an attorney with Bingham Greenbaum Doll LLP and former Louisville Metro Council president; and Nikki Jackson, senior vice president and regional executive for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ Louisville Branch.

Jackson, who is on multiple OneWest committees, said the board knows the organization has moved more slowly than some West Louisville residents would like in identifying its strategic objectives, but she said the organization has been intentionally methodical on the details. And Jackson said it is crucial that any development be done with West End residents rather than to them.

The strategic plan has been under development for about a year after OneWest hired Philadelphia-based consultant Urban Partners to design the plan by looking at data for West Louisville and for peer cities.

Interim OneWest director Jennifer Recktenwald said the organization has been staging formal meetings and informal conversations within West End neighborhoods to work out kinks in the plan. Thursday’s meeting will be the first time West End residents will see the finalized plan.

Meanwhile, OneWest leaders have launched a nationwide search for a president and CEO, whom they hope to have hired and in place by the end of the year. OneWest has only two part-time staff now. Since its creation, OneWest has raised more than $525,000 in private funds to cover its first three years of operating expenses.

OneWest officials shared a copy of the strategic plan with Louisville Business First in advance of Thursday’s meeting. Here’s a closer look at each portion of the plan.

Commercial/mixed use development

The past year has been a roller coaster of sorts for West Louisville as two large-scale projects that would have pumped hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in investment into the community were canceled: the West Louisville Foodport and a planned Wal-Mart supercenter on Broadway.

Jackson said residents are discouraged by the bad news, though good news came in December when the city was awarded a $29.5 million implementation grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative program.

The federal funding is expected to leverage more than $200 million in private, foundation, nonprofit and public dollars to fully implement Vision Russell, a comprehensive transformation plan for the neighborhood, starting with a phased deconstruction and redevelopment of the Beecher Terrace public housing site.

Jackson said OneWest will work to supplement the initiatives already launched in West Louisville, particularly through the pursuit of commercial mixed-use developments and redevelopments.

Jackson said OneWest won’t be exclusive in the that type of tenants a mixed-use development would contain, hoping to attract retail and restaurants — particularly sit-down dining — and possibly even hospitality and residential components.

I asked whether a grocery store would be part of that equation. Jackson said a grocery store hasn’t been formally discussed by the board, but she said it must be a major priority to combat the food desert that is expanding with the closure of Kroger stores in Southland Terrace and Old Louisville and the Pic-Pac Supermarket in West Louisville.

These mixed-use developments also would try to corral retail leakage in the West End. West Louisville residents spend hundreds of millions on retail goods and services, according to data compiled by OneWest, but less than half of those sales occur in the West End.

As mixed-use developments come online, OneWest plans to reinvest some of the profits from the developments back into the community.

Capacity building

The main focus of this part of the plan will be to create financial support structures for entrepreneurs and small and minority-owned businesses in West Louisville by attracting community development financial institutions that are experienced in lending and working with small and minority-owned businesses.

Community development financial institutions are private financial firms dedicated to offering affordable lending to low-income and disadvantaged people and communities.

OneWest also intends to create an “information clearinghouse” for financial programs available to for-profit and nonprofit companies and to create mechanisms for pre-development project financing.

Those efforts explicitly will be used to financially address the massive glut of vacant structures and lots in West Louisville, with more than 2,700 vacant structures and more than 1,400 vacant lots.

Advocacy

This step of the plan has a multi-pronged approach as OneWest hopes to attract a YMCA facility at West Broadway and Dixie Highway and make a concerted effort to bring a new Veterans Administration hospital to the West End. (Several communities are vying for the VA Hospital, a nearly $1 billion development, as the proposed site at 4906 Brownsboro Road has been heavily scrutinized.)

Other advocacy plans include support for development of the Ninth Street corridor, which could tear down the perceived barrier between downtown and the West End; creation of a West End entrepreneurial technology hub; creation of new tax incentive programs that would encourage private investment; and expansion of Louisville Waterfront Park west between 10th and 14th streets.

OneWest also will look for ways to attract higher education and medical facilities into west Louisville and will monitor the impact of vocational and training programs in the area.

When asked whether West Louisville needs one anchor development for other developments to build around, Jackson said there is certainly evidence to show this works in other cities. But OneWest leaders want to find both an anchor development and supplemental developments that would complement such a project.

Ongoing community outreach

In addition to finding a CEO, OneWest aims to open a business office in West Louisville and will stage routine meetings where the organization can update the communities on where it stands on its goals, which would include forums, community input workshops and casual weekend coffee talks.

OneWest also aims to create a robust communications program that will provide regular updates for the community.

Marty Finley covers economic development, commercial and residential real estate, government and sports business.