Mayor Greg Fischer announced yesterday that Louisville is receiving a $29.5 million implementation grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 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. Vision Russell was developed over the past two years by Louisville Metro Government, the Louisville Metro Housing Authority (LMHA) and community residents, agencies and leaders.
“We are ecstatic. This is a huge day not just for Russell, not just for west Louisville, but for our entire city,” Mayor Fischer said. “Being selected by HUD for a Choice implementation grant validates all the hard work and commitment that community leaders, residents, this administration and many other stakeholders have invested over the past two years in efforts to transform and revitalize one of our most historic neighborhoods.
“Our city is experiencing a renaissance, with $9 billion in capital investment, almost 60,000 new jobs and 2,600 new businesses in the past six years,” the Mayor added. “The Choice grant and the rippling investment it brings will further ensure west Louisville’s part in that renaissance.”
The Mayor announced the grant during a celebratory press conference this afternoon at Baxter Community Center, surrounded by HUD officials, government and civic leaders, and community leaders and individual residents who helped create Vision Russell.
Noting that Louisville Central Community Centers will be a development partner in Vision Russell, the Mayor added, “Our collective goal is to use this opportunity to replace the so-called ‘Ninth Street Divide’ with a beautiful new bridge of opportunity and hope.”
Vision Russell efforts will focus on several key components in transforming the neighborhood, including:
“This is a much larger-scale version of projects that have successfully brought new vitality to other neighborhoods in Louisville, like Liberty Green, Sheppard Square and Park Duvalle,” said LMHA executive director Tim Barry, “and it will directly benefit the people who live in Beecher Terrace and the surrounding community.”
Construction in Russell will start in mid- to late 2017 and continue for seven years. At least 25 percent of the work will be performed by minority-owned businesses, 10 percent by female-owned businesses, and a half percent by businesses owned by disabled people.
The strategies and goals included in Louisville’s Choice implementation grant application, sent to HUD this summer, were identified by a committee comprised of Russell residents, community and business leaders, and city and LMHA officials. This two-year planning process was funded through a $425,000 planning grant that HUD awarded to the Housing Authority in January 2015 and a $600,000 leveraged contribution from Louisville Metro Government.
In June, HUD awarded LMHA an additional $1 million action activities grant to kick-start efforts to enhance and accelerate other redevelopment within the Russell neighborhood. Louisville Metro Government leveraged an additional $375,000 for that effort.
And in August, the agencies were notified that Louisville was one of five cities selected as a finalist for implementation funding. Today, HUD announced that Louisville and all four of the other cities – Camden, N.J., Boston, Denver and St. Louis – will receive implementation grants, for a total of $132 million.
“The Choice program has proven an effective tool in transforming neighborhoods that were once littered with abandoned and crumbling properties into vibrant communities that offer quality housing options and are rich with retail services and other amenities,” said HUD
Secretary Julián Castro. “The work and investment that is being made through this program in cities like Louisville will benefit millions of residents for generations to come.”
Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) said he believes Louisville’s track record of redeveloping public housing sites into mixed income multi-family housing provided the community with a competitive advantage against other communities that applied.
“From the Park DuValle redevelopment to Sheppard Square, LMHA and Metro Louisville are considered national leaders in transforming blighted and distressed areas into vibrant neighborhoods that attract additional investment and interest,” said Yarmuth. “The selection process for the Choice implementation grant is extremely competitive. The fact that Louisville was selected speaks well to the work, engagement and support needed to make this award possible.”
Manfred Reid, Sr., chairman of the board of commissioners for LMHA and a lifelong Russell resident, said the grant is an enormous affirmation for the community.
“The strategies identified in our Russell transformation plan are a result of 90 community meetings, forums and other feedback we have received from over 600 residents and other stakeholders on the type of neighborhood they want Russell to be,” said Reid. “This grant says it can be done. And we believe we can again make Russell one of Louisville’s finest neighborhoods. I could not be more proud of my city today.”
Reaction from Louisville Metro Council members:
“The announcement today of the Choice Neighborhood Grant is a game changer for our community and an achievement that should be celebrated by the entire City of Louisville. This accomplishment is a direct result of the proven leadership of the Louisville Metro Housing Authority, the collaborative work of a number of community-based nonprofit organizations and more importantly, the citizens of the Russell neighborhood, and it will prove to be a major catalyst on moving economic development forward in West Louisville.” Councilman David Tandy (D-4).
“I’m delighted that Louisville has been selected for the HUD Choice implementation grant. After having undergone an intensive local planning process, which involved a great deal of community outreach and input into the vision for the neighborhood, it is exciting to know that the Russell community will receive the funds necessary to implement the transformation plan, to redevelop the historic Russell neighborhood and continue the momentum that is currently underway.” Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton (D-5).
“I’m excited about the City of Louisville being awarded this HUD grant for the Russell neighborhood. This will give the city the opportunity to invest millions of dollars in an area of our city that desperately needs revitalization. I congratulate Tim Barry and the citizens of Russell on a job well done.” Councilman David James (D-6).