LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) - A bipartisan effort from state lawmakers was announced on Tuesday to aid several neighborhoods in the West End of Louisville.
During a press conference at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, was joined by Louisville Democratic Senators Morgan McGarvey and Gerald Neal, as well as Republican Julie Raque Adams, to announce the bipartisan legislation named the West End Opportunity Partnership. It would offer investment and economic solutions to Louisville’s West End neighborhoods of Parkland, Shawnee, Park Duvalle, Russell, Portland, California, Chickasaw, Park Hill and Algonquin.
The four say they spent months working with key West End economic and community development leaders and constituents in developing a plan that empowers west Louisville to attract investment and promote growth in its neighborhoods.
“I am encouraged to see concrete legislation focused on a community that has been insufficiently supported for far too long,” stated Sen. Neal. “This is an opportunity to begin the process of stabilizing home ownership and assisting those who are staying in their homes. We still have much work to do, however this is a good start toward the empowerment of the neighborhoods beyond 9th Street in West Louisville.”
“This is an opportunity to implement what could be a transformational tool that affords the possibility of making a substantial economic difference while maintaining the character and fabric of these neighborhoods,” said President Stivers. “This is about providing these communities the ability to have long-term investment and reinvestment over the next 30 years, leaving something better for posterity. The commonwealth cannot be strong unless Louisville is as strong as it can possibly be, and that includes the West End.”
Key elements of the legislative proposals include measures to attract investment, prevent displacement of current residents due to increasing housing values, creation of a tax incremental financing program and development area, and creation of a board to oversee investment opportunities and neighborhood initiatives.
“This bill handles the concerns around gentrification by providing protections for the existing homeowners against tax rate increases due to real estate values going up. It gives resources for home improvement, affordable housing and business development,” said OneWest CEO and president, Evon Smith. “It has the full support of our board because it brings tangible resources that are needed to improve quality of life and environmental and economic justice in the West End.”
The legislation also outlines financial support between private and public sectors, including city and state governments.
“I am proud to cosponsor and be a part of this legislation,” added Sen. McGarvey. “It is refreshing to see the General Assembly working across the aisle, in a bipartisan effort, to address longstanding systemic issues in West Louisville. I look forward to continuing the work with my colleagues in the legislature to see it across the finish line.”
Community input was taken in the creation of the board and advisory council. Local, Black-led organizations were chosen to ensure proper and impactful representation and oversight of neighborhood initiatives and investment opportunities. The legislation outlines the board composition of the West End Opportunity Partnership to be led by an African American majority, including representation from impacted neighborhoods within the development area.
The board will be charged with leading and leveraging financial investment opportunities, investing in local projects and initiatives, such as affordable housing, and making loans to businesses, individuals or other organizations seeking to invest in the nine neighborhoods.