Community Politics

A new organization focused on encouraging economic development and preventing displacement in west Louisville is looking to raise $10 million in private donations over the next year.

The Kentucky General Assembly created the West End Opportunity Partnership during its last session. The partnership will control future tax revenue in nine neighborhoods in the West End.

The system is known as tax increment financing. The city noted the amount of tax revenue that came in from those neighborhoods for 2020. In every subsequent year of the next two decades, 80% percent of the money that comes in above that number will go automatically to the partnership for reinvestment.

Louisville Metro Council President David James, who will sit on the partnership’s governing board, said the money collected is intended to encourage new development and businesses in west Louisville.

“If you have someone who wants to build in an area and provide jobs, and that developer needs a low-interest loan of half a million dollars to make their deal work, then [the partnership board] gets to decide how they want to structure that deal, if they want to structure it at all,” James said.

Before the partnership can start collecting tax revenue and making investments, it will need $30 million in start-up funding. Louisville Metro pitched in the first $10 million as part of the 2022 budget approved last month. Lawmakers and community groups working in the West End are now looking to private donors for an additional $10 million. 

Kentucky Sen. Gerald Neal (D-33) is one of the sponsors of the legislation that created the partnership. He said he’s “feeling pretty good” about the group meeting the June 2022 deadline to finish fundraising.

“We are buoyed by the fact that not only have our discussions with various entities suggested to us that this is something that’s going to be achievable, but also many have reached out to us and not only in the state,” he said.

Once $20 million is secured, the state will give an additional $10 million to the West End Opportunity Partnership.

Neal said the partnership will also help combat gentrification in west Louisville. Property taxes are likely to rise if new businesses move into the area or new homes are built. Neal said the partnership can reimburse homeowners in the West End for any increase in their property taxes.

A 21-member board will create the organization’s bylaws and a process for deciding what to do with the tax revenue. The district will cover nine west Louisville neighborhoods: Algonquin, California, Chickasaw, Park Duvalle, Park Hill, Parkland, Portland, Russell and Shawnee. 

Earlier this month, the first 12 members were appointed to the board by Gov. Andy Beshear, Mayor Greg Fischer, Metro Council and local universities. They include:

  • J. Michael Brown, cabinet secretary for Gov. Beshear
  • Jeana Dunlap, representing the NAACP
  • DeVone Holt, representing One West
  • Sadiqa Reynolds, representing the Federal Reserve Bank
  • Christina Shadle, representing the Louisville Urban League
  • Jennifer Hancock, representing Volunteers of America Mid-States in Louisville
  • Steve Trager, head of Republic Bank
  • David Kaplan, representing a locally based foundation
  • Mark Watkins, vice president and chief operating officer of the University of Louisville
  • Dr. Frank M. Smith Jr., executive vice president of Simmons College of Kentucky
  • Dr. Dawn Wade, chief strategy officer at NIMBUS and president CEO of EOS Strategic Solutions
  • Metro Council President David James, representing Metro Council

The other nine board representatives will come from each of the neighborhoods within the West End Opportunity Partnership footprint. The current board members will create the process for selecting the neighborhood representatives.

James said he’s excited by the opportunity for residents in west Louisville to have a voice in the future development of their neighborhoods.

“The thing that makes this unique, that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else in the country that’s doing it, is that it’s actually going to be managed by the people that live in the community,” James said.

Advocates for the West End Opportunity Partnership said it’s likely to be years before the benefits of the new organization will be fully realized.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL.