Community leaders in west Louisville’s Russell neighborhood are hopeful an event this weekend will attract investors into an area of the city that some say is isolated and neglected, but full of potential.
The West of Ninth 5k Beautification Run will take participants through an area of Louisville in which the median income of the nearly 11,000 residents is 220 percent lower than the rest of the county, according to data recently provided by the Network Center for Community Change.
This weekend’s event is intended to show people that there still is opportunity in the once thriving neighborhood, said Kevin Fields, the chief operating officer for Louisville Central Community Centers.
“There is a tremendous amount of opportunity that exists,” he said. “Both in terms of human capital as well as business opportunity, we are immediately adjacent to a thriving central business district that is growing and expanding. As downtown Louisville grows, so should the west end.”
The 5k is being sponsored by the Teen Leadership Council, a group of teenagers that hold regular, weekly meetings in attempt to hash out ways to improve the community they live in, Fields said.
He said it is good to see young people working for a positive change, as recent media portrayals of west end youth have leaned towards troublesome, gang violence fueled menaces.
“We want to say that within that same demographic there are at least a few kids that are doing the right and are committed to investing in themselves through their talent and personal development and committed to leading and having an impact on what goes on around them,” Fields said.
Nearly 60 percent of Russell neighborhood residents live in poverty, and Fields says interest and action from the right investors can change that and enhance the quality of life in the area.
“We want to attract investment and that investment is not always in financial capital it’s also an investment of time and talent, in some cases, or an investment of other forms of tangible resources,” he said.
An though the area is oftentimes seen as derelict, Fields said there is great opportunity for redevelopment and he hopes bringing in people from outside of the Russell community will help dissolve the isolation that exists for those communities west of 9th street.
“We’re just advocating that west of 9th street, that tends to be the wall, we need to, as a community, not as an African American community, but as a total community, commit to breaking down some of the isolation, which is mostly a demographic, economic divide that separates our community,” Fields said.
The 5K run will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 26 at 1300 West Muhammad Ali Blvd. Registration is $15 and proceeds will benefit the Teen Leadership Council.