Around 100 residents and stakeholders gathered Friday for a forum about responsible revitalization in Louisville’s West End, offering policy suggestions to improve their neighborhoods without pushing out current residents.
The forum was hosted by the nonprofit OneWest, which is also buying properties and retail spaces across west Louisville..
WFPL has followed concerns about gentrification in the West End as part of our podcast Here Today — where we investigated the city’s history of disinvestment in the area and talked to officials and affected residents about planned new investments. On Friday, Metro Councilwoman Jessica Green said the OneWest forum could empower residents to become involved in the process and let their voices be heard.
“Too many times people in west Louisville have felt that the powers that be have just tried to push things down their throat,” Green said. “But any time we can engage with the people and let them have an active role and active voice in terms of what they believe works, I think that we all come out as winners.”
Here’s what some residents had to say:
- “[Developers] come in, they get the money, they’re gone and then we’re stuck with their property,” Joe McNealy said of abandoned properties, adding that he thinks the city should hold more developers accountable. “We as taxpayers have to pay for what they leave us behind.”
- “Ownership of the land is a critical aspect of protecting the community,” Greg Wright said.
- “We can’t put the onus only on developers or only on investors,” Frank McNeal. “The issue is beyond merely developers. It’s community, it’s governmental agencies, it’s a number of players.”
- “[In] 2008, the economy crashed. Everybody’s mortgage went to crap across the nation, I don’t know how we could have prevented that,” Jeffrey Thompson said. “What fell through the crack in my opinion is that we didn’t have the backing from the city. We were forgotten about.”
Nearly $1 billion in investments are planned for west Louisville, including funding for projects like a new YMCA, a sports and learning complex, an arts and culture district and an overhaul of the Beecher Terrace housing development.
Louisville Metro Council President David James, who moderated Friday’s forum, said he plans to take residents’ concerns and suggestions to the city.