Mayor Greg Fischer joined local officials, students and residents from the Russell neighborhood to celebrate the completion of renovations and the addition of a sprayground at Sheppard Park. The sprayground is part of a number of changes within the park that includes the addition of a Conga drum play area, new restrooms, walking path markers, picnic tables and park benches. These changes come just days after thousands of area students began their summer break.
“The enhancements at Sheppard Park will provide Russell residents with access to a variety of recreational and educational activities, along with countless hours of entertainment and continued learning opportunities,” said Fischer. “As we enter the first full week of summer vacation for many students, I cannot think of a better time to open this newly enhanced play area.”
The renovations at Sheppard Park are one of four action activities that are designed to catalyze further investment in the historic Russell neighborhood and provide immediate improvements to the area. Other action activities include the addition of SmArt Stop bus shelters at five locations throughout the neighborhood that blend functionality with an artistic flair that reflects a characteristic or institution unique to the Russell area; the creation of large-scale murals on four railroad overpasses that will create signature gateways into the community and creative reuses of four vacant lots. Each of the activities are expected to be completed by yearend and were identified as priorities by Russell residents through community meetings, neighborhood polling and other outreach efforts.
“Russell residents and other stakeholders are leading the way by connecting for change and transformation,” said Metro Council member Barbara Sexton Smith. “Their hard work and dedication is beginning to take shape and become the new reality in the beautiful Russell Neighborhood where dreams really do come true.”
The total cost for the Sheppard Park improvements project was $600,000, which was paid for in part through a $1 million Choice Neighborhood Initiative Planning grant from the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) awarded to the Louisville Metro Housing Authority (LMHA) in June 2016. In addition to the grant, Louisville Metro Government provided $375,000 to help fund these efforts.
Th action activities support initiatives and recommendations outlined in the Vision Russell Transformation Plan (VRTP). A key component of VRTP is the razing and redevelopment of the Beecher Terrace Housing complex. This work is being funded by a $29.5 million grant that was awarded to Louisville by HUD in December 2016. The grant will be leveraged with over $200 million in additional funding sources to redevelop the Beecher site into a mixed-income community with a variety of housing options and updated amenities, and to create additional off-site replacement housing. Funds will also be used to relocate Beecher Terrace households and to provide them with case management and other supportive services.
Manfred Reid, a long time Russell resident and chair of LMHA’s Board of Commissioners, believes as Russell residents begin to see more changes taking place within the neighborhood, like the renovation of Sheppard Park, the level of engagement and support for the VRTP will continue to grow.
“This is an exciting time to be a resident of Russell and a pivotal period in the history of this community,” said Reid. “I am, along with other residents, excited and committed to remaining engaged throughout this process and believe these changes will boost the pride we have in calling the Russell neighborhood our home.”