Local News

Plans to preserve the history, look and feel of a block of West Louisville are underway.

The YMCA of Greater Louisville is planning to demolish a five-story building at 18th and Broadway that was once part of a Philip Morris plant and build a new two-story YMCA facility in its place.

Questions about the project began in January with this Broken Sidewalk post. Recently, the organization Neighborhood Planning and Preservation has raised questions about the project online, asking why the existing building can’t be saved. 

From the NPP Facebook page:

We want to know how the destruction is being funded and why the YMCA couldn’t build its new building on the VACANT lot on the opposite corner (SW corner of 18th and Broadway. This facility could be revamped to provide market housing, conference space, retail, etc. to support the new Y, provide amenities to nearby Brown Forman and shore up a community in a significant way. etc. WHAT A WASTE ! ARE TAXPAYERS FOOTING THE BILL FOR THIS? The suburbanization of WEST LOUISVILLE profits only a few and does little to offer opportunity to the community itself. West Louisville (and urban neighborhoods) need jobs, housing for mixed income and other reasons to make people want to live there.

But YMCA president Steve Tarver cites a study that has shown the existing building would need major work.

“The only thing that facility brings according to anybody’s conversation I’ve been involved in is just simply age,” he says. “We just felt like even though we have to give up a little bit, what we have to bring is so very exciting.”

Philip Morris’ parent company has also donated the building to the YMCA.

A final design for the new facility won’t be complete until early next year. But resident Haven Harrington is in talks with NPP and the YMCA to preserve the building or revise the project in order to keep the look and feel of West Louisville intact.

“Most of West Louisville has been razed all the way back to 16th Street. When you think from 5th to 16th Street, that’s a lot to lose,” he says. “You lost over 3,000 houses and businesses and replaced them with low income housing. That was a great blow to West Louisville.”

Pre-demolition work on the Philip Morris building has already begun, and Harrington says if the building is razed, the YMCA should maintain the current style and not create a building in a sea of parking, as many other lots along west Broadway have become.

“For a lot of people in West Louisville, they don’t drive. A lot of people walk, a lot of people use public transportation. And that type of development doesn’t fit with an urban neighborhood,” he says, citing as an example a new Walgreens several blocks west of the Philip Morris building. “I’m not against suburban development, but suburban development needs to take place in the suburbs.”

Harrington says a new YMCA could be built in many other areas of West Louisville and still serve a valuable purpose to the community. Tarver says he welcomes the suggestions for 18th and Broadway, and while a final design isn’t expected for another three to four months, he says the new building will fit in with the current streetscape.

The new YMCA is meant to be complimentary to the Y’s existing facility at 9th and Chestnut, offering more services. And one aspect of the project very few people question is the value of another YMCA facility in the area.

From the January Broken Sidewalk post:

It should be made clear that the proposed Y facility and the health-partnerships it represents with U of L could be a real boon for the Park Hill, California, and Russell neighborhoods if a responsible urban pattern were found. The health and fitness implications as well as the community draw are sorely needed in the community and the proposal should not be viewed as tied to the specific proposed construction site. West Louisville can have both the new Y and its associated facilities and keep the historic building, too.