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As Another Russell Project Begins, Gentrification Concerns Prevalent

A group of vacant warehouses near 30th and Muhammad Ali in the Russell neighborhood could soon be given new life.

The city acquired the properties in 2017. Now, officials are looking for ideas on how to redevelop the 220,000 square feet contained therein.

It's the latest project in a string of massive investments going into Russell, a neighborhood in west Louisville that has long lacked commercial development as a result of racist government policies. That fact, along with the renewed interest, has raised concerns among residents and public officials about gentrification and subsequent displacement.

Mariah Washington lives near the vacant warehouses. The 19-year-old said she would like to see something nice for the kids in her neighborhood, who have to contend with the dangers of gun violence. Washington would like to see something fun for them. A waterpark, perhaps.

"I want it to be this to be a place where kids can actually come and be involved in life and help them grow to something better," she said.

At the same time, she said she is worried about the possibility of rents going up — a concern other Russell residents share as well.

Washington said she hopes the redevelopment won't raise rents, push people out and let outsiders "take over" more of her neighborhood.

She was one of a few local residents who attended a small press conference Wednesday afternoon, where city officials announced a donation of services by global design consultancy Arcadis, which has an office in Louisville. That agency has completed a 3D scan of the buildings, which the city can use like a blueprint to develop future plans.

Washington believes Russell residents should be a part of those plans. She is planning to gather her neighbors' ideas and present them to the leaders of Russell: A Place of Promise. That's an initiative run in partnership with the city, which will gather community feedback for the project through a door-knocking campaign and at a public meeting on Oct. 4 from 2 to 6 p.m. at Roosevelt-Perry Elementary School.

"This is our home," Washington said. "I feel like we should be able to be comfortable with where we live and not feel like everything is just being changed and one day, they're going to end up getting rid of us."

The vacant warehouses are just across the street from another major project, the sports complex planned by the Louisville Urban League. Work on that site is now underway after last month's groundbreaking, and the project has raised about half its funding.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is promoting investment in west Louisville as part of his economic development platform for the city. On Wednesday, he said the city is working on policies to prevent displacement amid that influx. However, his office has not yet released any concrete plans to achieve that.

Learn more about Fischer's perspective on preventing displacement in this episode of the WFPL podcast Here Today:

Why does Louisville have so many fish fries?

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.

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