West End community leaders praise new hospital announcement
Louisville’s West End is getting its first new hospital in decades as part of the Goodwill Industries of Kentucky “opportunity campus.”
The $100 million investment will host the organization’s new headquarters, social and career services and a $70 million Norton hospital.
The campus will be built on a 20-acre lot at 28th Street and West Broadway.
At a press conference Wednesday, Norton Healthcare CEO Russell Cox said the hospital will be the first built west of 9th Street since 1845.
The announcement brought about praise from the west Louisville community after decades of divestment in the area by the city and business sector.
“This is like a dream come true for us, and it’s going to be a dream come true for west Louisville,” said Louisville Metro Council President David James, a Democrat. “And it’s going to be so good for the citizens of West Louisville.”
The future location of the “opportunity campus” used to be in James’ District 6. But redistricting in 2021 moved the area into District 4, which is represented by Democrat Jecorey Arthur.
Arthur thanked Goodwill and its partners in a tweet Wednesday adding, “I'm still tripping that this will be the first hospital built in the West End since 1845.”
James said many of the community needs that he outlined to Goodwill were included in the plans unveiled at the press conference on Wednesday.
Other community leaders from the area offered praise similar to that from Arthur and James.
“I heard [Norton Healthcare CEO] Mr. Cox talk about building a hospital from the ground up and that west Louisville is going to get its own hospital; I was so happy I wanted to get up and dance in the aisles,” said Ray Barker Sr., known to some as “Sir Friendly C.”
Barker is a staple in the West End. He's a former cop who was known for using rap to connect with children in the community and advocate against violence and drugs. He even has a street named after him.
For Barker, keeping the community involved in the project is key to its success.
“We want to have input from the day that you break the ground to build these buildings until completion. That way, we have ownership in it,” he said.
Barker advocated for Goodwill and Norton to put together a community advisory board of people with roots in the West End.
Beyond the advisory board, Barker also advocated for Goodwill to use its influence to make a pathway for local contractors to bid on the project.
Kathleen Parks, a long-time civil rights activist and life-long West End resident who is the president of the National Action Network, echoed that sentiment.
“We just want to make sure that we get a big slice of the pie, not just a slice, but a big slice,” Parks said.
To Parks, that means people from the community are included in every step of the process. Even after the campus is built, she hopes to see it staffed by locals.
“Our voices are at the table to ensure that Norton’s health care staff is extremely diverse and has a large population of not only Black nurses but Black physicians,” Parks said.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Norton Healthcare CEO Russell Cox said there are plans for a partnership between the hospital, Simmons College of Kentucky and other HBCUs from across the country to ensure that the people staffing the hospital look like the ones using it.
For an area that has long been underserved and disinvested in, the “opportunity campus” and the hospital it will hold offer hope.
Parks wants to build on that hope by continuing calls to create more opportunities for inclusion for local residents.
“Keep the community in the loop when you have these kinds of announcements,” Parks said. “I think sometimes key leaders in the community forget that they have to be very intentional about getting this information and educating the community about what’s happening.”