The intersection of 18th St. and Broadway is transforming. On the south side of the street are two large construction sites, while across the way is a mix of older buildings that house small businesses ranging from a nail salon to a dentist’s office. The city recently realigned the intersection to accommodate the new developments.
And now there’s a new property owner in the mix: OneWest, a nonprofit that aims to promote commercial real estate development in west Louisville, recently purchased a group of buildings on the north side of Broadway at 18th Street.
But as the group celebrated the purchase Monday afternoon with food and city officials, the relative lack of activity at the Passport Health Plan headquarters site nearby stood in stark contrast. Last week, the nonprofit Medicaid provider announced it would put construction of the $130 million development on hold as it fights reimbursement rate changes set by the state.
OneWest CEO and president Evon Smith struck a positive tone, saying the group would honor tenants’ current leases and work with the community to determine the future of the properties. She said all of it — from the businesses to the structures — could change.
“It goes back to the community and what they envision they’d like to see,” Smith said. “So we’ll work in tandem with the community and the businesses that are here to try to make a plan for what the future could hold.”
Mike Laws is a co-owner of the Fade Away Barbershop, which he said is currently on a month-to-month lease at 1807 W. Broadway. He hopes the shop will be able to join in whatever success OneWest spawns on the block.
“I’m just hoping whatever they’re trying to build we’re here to be here in the process and grow with them,” Laws said. “The West End needs plenty of nonprofit organizations to help us.”
Smith said the sale closed last week, with the organization paying about a $1 million for the properties, which were assessed to be worth nearly three times as much. Longtime owner Gus Goldsmith, who now lives in Miami, said he donated the remaining equity. Goldsmith is a real estate lender who previously ran a payday loan business in Louisville.
He said he had invested in what became the Passport site, back when Walmart was considering opening a location there. After that plan fell through, Goldsmith said he decided to sell that land and the retail center.
“I lost out and the West End lost out,” he said. “So I thought I would step up and do something for the West End.”
Goldsmith said his family used to run a pawn shop on that strip. Now there’s a new one in its place, which store owner Mike Howell said is owned by his sister Karen Goldsmith — Gus’s ex-wife.
Howell said the changes at 18th and Broadway have hurt his store. In particular, the redo of the intersection and related changes to bus service, plus the move away from the TARC passes his shop used to sell, have driven business down more than a third in the past three months, he said.
Howell’s not sure what to think now that Dan’s City Pawn has a new landlord. He’s also concerned about the possibility that the city could raise taxes soon.
“I hope it works out great, I hope we have a great partnership,” he said of OneWest. “It’s just hard to say with Passport closing and the mayor inflicting more fees on insurance and trying to pay his bills.”
How things will shake out for most of the entities clustered around 18th and Broadway remains to be seen. On March 5, Passport representatives are scheduled to appear in front of a Franklin County Circuit Court judge in their case seeking relief from changes to the state’s Medicaid reimbursement rates.
The next evening, March 6, OneWest will hold an open forum on the future of the buildings. The meeting will take place at Joshua Tabernacle Baptist Church.