Community

The Louisville Central Community Center’s Mini-Versity, an early childhood development center,  has educated youth since 1975. But the displacement of nearby residents due to housing redevelopment has cut enrollment numbers and could force the Mini-Versity to close.

The Mini-Versity enrolls up to 123 children between six weeks and 12 years of age every year. The program is one of many offered by the Louisville Central Community Center; CEO Kevin Fields said the relocation of nearby residents for the Beecher Terrace renovation caused nearly half as many kids to enroll last year as compared to years before. He said LCCC can’t afford to fill the Mini-Versity’s vacant staff positions because of that lost revenue.

Louisville Central Community Center President Kevin Fields Sr.Kyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Louisville Central Community Center President Kevin Fields Sr.

If you look at the Mini-Versity today, it already looks as if it has closed. Construction fences surround the center like a maze, broken only by the entrances to the center’s parking lot and building front.

Fields compared the situation to the Presbyterian Community Center in Smoketown. It shuttered its childhood development center in 2013 after residents were moved for revitalization efforts at the nearby Sheppard Square housing project, which underwent a transformation similar to what Beecher Terrace is going through now. The child development center had been there for more than a hundred years. Eventually, the whole community center closed with it.

“They shut down because they could not keep the business going when the families that they were serving had been displaced,” Fields said. “If we don’t dig in our heels and withstand this short-term setback that we’ve experienced, we’d have to shut down.”

Freddie Brown, district executive director of the Chestnut Street YMCA, said the Beecher Terrace renovation has affected the YMCA’s business, too.

“The number of families has dropped tremendously, so we’ve definitely felt that,” Brown said. “I’m sure it’s affected businesses as well.”

Kyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

A construction fence surrounds the Mini-Versity in Louisville’s Russell neighborhood.

Fields said services like child development and pediatric care are important to neighborhoods which have faced decades of disinvestment and redlining, because these are places where services and amenities are rare.The LCCC has asked the Louisville Metro Housing Authority for help keeping the Mini-Versity afloat in the short-term.

And Fields is pursuing another opportunity, too. He’s trying to raise $5 million to expand the Mini-Versity building, which would allow  the University of Louisville to run a pediatric care center from there. In return, the LCCC would get some revenue from the center.

“The longer range perspective is to make sure that we begin to prepare the future generation of our children to be healthier, better prepared and have better access to services,” Fields said.

He hopes to raise the money and finish that expansion in three years, around the time when the Beecher Terrace development would finish.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.