Commentary Strange Fruit

A few weeks ago, we introduced you to oSha Shireman and Charles Booker, two of the people who are working to make the West Louisville FoodPort a reality.

The proposed project would bring together farmers, distributors, retailers, educators and other food-related endeavors on a 24-acre campus at 30th and West Market streets.

But not everyone is convinced the plan is good for the neighborhood. Residents and activists have raised questions about whether proper procedures were followed as the proposal moved through the city’s planning process.

This week, we talk to three community leaders who oppose the FoodPort. Councilwoman Mary Woolridge is a Democrat who represents District 3 on the Metro Council. Martina Kunnecke is the president of Neighborhood Planning & Preservation, Inc. And John Owen is a business owner in Portland.

Owen says he worries the FoodPort’s food will be too expensive for its own neighbors.

“If you’re spending on a tight dollar in a community like Portland or Russell, you can’t afford a six-dollar bell pepper,” he says. “They’re being unrealistic.”

Owen also says Seed Capital Kentucky — the company behind the FoodPort — refused to sign a promise that the site wouldn’t include a biodigester in the the future. A biodigester was part of the FoodPort plan at one time, but neighbors objected, and it was eventually scrapped.

“They wouldn’t even consider signing such a document,” he says.

Woolridge believes she was misled when she asked to see the development agreement between Seed Capital and the city. Such an agreement is what ensures a developer will do what they say they’ll do with a site — in this case, a site they acquired from the city for $1. When she asked to see the agreement, she was denied and told it was still a draft.

Woolridge says this is a case of well-connected neighborhood outsiders trying to circumvent the process and disregarding resident needs.

“We need to be asking West Louisville, what do you want in West Louisville?” she says.

Kunnecke says disregard for the needs and desires of the neighborhood is rooted in classism. West Louisville residents tend to have lower incomes than some other communities.

“Unfortunately, we live in a society where we think that folks that have more wealth have more power, they have more knowledge, they have a greater right to shape their environments,” she says. “These are cultural things that we have to address. We have to recognize them, call them out and address them directly.”

We’ll keep you posted on further developments regarding the future of the FoodPort and how it will affect the surrounding neighborhood.

In this week’s Juicy Fruit, we’re excited that one of our favorites, Janelle Monáe, has just been cast in a movie called “Hidden Figures.” It’s about three African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1960s, on the mission that made John Glenn the first American to orbit the Earth. The cast also includes Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer, and the movie is due out in September.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects.