Almost $30 million will be coming to Russell from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to revitalize the neighborhood. Part of that effort is to redevelop a section of Muhammad Ali Boulevard into an arts and culture district.
The district would stretch from 6th to 21st streets along Muhammad Ali Boulevard. The area would include incubators for businesses, festivals and restaurants.
“It sends a signal that there’s a recognition not only of the need to economically create a diverse economy in the neighborhood but also, quite frankly, to better tie the Russell neighborhood to the downtown business district,” says Sam Watkins, CEO of Louisville Central Community Centers, Inc.
Watkins is also co-chair of the neighborhood task force and was involved in the two-year process of preparing for the grant.
Prior to the federal urban renewal program of the 1960s, Muhammad Ali Boulevard, formally known as Walnut Street, was lined with theaters, banks and restaurants. For years, neighbors and business leaders in West Louisville have sought to find ways — and funding — to bring those days back.
In 2015, Metro government was awarded $425,000 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for revitalization efforts in Russell. This year, HUD awarded Louisville Metro Housing Authority another $1 million to continue the effort.
A key component of those efforts was the demolition and replacement of the 760-unit Beecher Terrace public housing complex. Now, with the $29.5 million federal Choice Neighborhood grant coming, that plan will be set in motion.
“When you measure it against a 75-year old housing development that doesn’t have central air conditioning, has a lot of issues with handicap accessibility, we think it’s time to move on and create a new environment there,” Watkins said.
That new environment means a mixed-income, mixed-unit development along with the proposed arts and culture district. And that proposal has some neighbors excited, as we found yesterday.