The Courier-Journal: Advocacy group seeks West End development ‘win’

Posted Tuesday May 09, 2017 by OneWest

Published Jan. 31, 2017 3:23 p.m. ET
By Phillip M. Bailey

After the failure to bring a Wal-Mart and food hub, a western Louisville advocacy group says residents in the nine neighborhood area need a visible economic development victory.

“There’s a little sense of being beleaguered because of some of those failed projects,” said Nikki Jackson, a OneWest board member.

The nonprofit is preparing to unveil its five-year strategic plan to residents and other stakeholders that it says will focus on key corridors to capture business opportunity and provide commercial amenities that will make the West End an attractive place to live.

“It’s not so much that west Louisville needs that win but that Louisville needs that in the west to punctuate the right momentum,” said Jackson, also serves as senior vice president of the Louisville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

OneWest is looking to employ a four-tier strategy aimed at two commercial corridors within the Russell and California neighborhoods for future developments. The first being a district along West Broadway bounded by 14th and 26th streets, and the Dixie Highway Corridor between Main Street on the north and the rail line at 1400 Dixie Highway on the south.

Jennifer Recktenwald, OneWest’s interim director, said it’s too soon to tell what sort of projects will take place in the area but that OneWest wants to undertake at least one development project within those zones. She said those corridors were identified by the group through neighborhood feedback and key investments in the pipeline.

“We know we have to have a ground zero, and 18th and Broadway makes the most sense given the vacant acreage and momentum for a major retailer or institution there,” Recktenwald said.

Among the planned investments surrounding those sites are the city’s $29.5 million federal grant to revitalize the Russell neighborhood; a long-awaited new YMCA facility at 18th and Broadway; extending Waterfront Park westward; and a proposed bus rapid transit line along Dixie Highway.

OneWest learned through a four-month study that West End residents spend roughly $475 million on retail each year but that $217 million flows outside its traditional boundaries east of Ninth Street.

In order to be effective, OneWest’s four-tier strategy aims to become a development corporation specializing in West End projects; create financial support structures for entrepreneurs and minority-owned businesses; have ongoing engagement with residents and neighborhood groups that will be “responsive to that West End voice;” and be an advocate “for responsible investment, financial commitments and policies” in the community.

Jackson said OneWest is also looking to expand its presence in the community by purchasing a permanent office space. Jackson said they have also launched a nationwide search for a president and CEO to hire by the end of the year to expand the group’s two part-time staffers.

Last year, OneWest held a series of community conversations with residents where it received feedback on drafting the five-year plan. Jackson said it is important that any development project be done in collaboration with those who live and work in the West End rather than dictated to them by outside investors or city officials.

“We feel confident that it will be well received and supported in the community because it burst from the community voice, and that was quite intentional,” she said.

OneWest’s strategic plan will be presented during a community conversation starting 5 p.m. Thursday at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, 1701 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.

Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at (502) 582-4475 or pbailey@courier-journal.com