In one accord: more on West End gentrification

After last week’s LEO went to press, city officials that we reached out to regarding the Cedar Street development project in the Russell neighborhood responded. Jeana Dunlap from Develop Louisville said over email that the Urban Renewal Commission is the same as the Urban Renewal and Community Development Agency and that it is not, under either name, associated with the Planning Commission.

However, according to the ordinance passed by Metro Council rubber stamping the sale of the property, the Urban Renewal and Community Development Agency is the owner of record of the properties to be acquired by Community Ventures Corporation (CVC) for the Cedar Street project.

According to Dunlap, both Rebound, Inc. and CVC have paid “modest fees” to acquire the properties for the proposed market rate homes. She said CVC is paying the Urban Renewal and Community Development Agency $360,000 for the 27 parcels of land it intends to develop — less than half the amount of the forgivable loans approved by Metro Council. Rebound, Inc. is paying Urban Renewal $100 and $200 to the Louisville Jefferson Landbank Authority for the three parcels of land it intends to develop — less than one percent of the amount of forgivable loans rubber stamped at the last Council meeting.

Collectively, they are paying 36 percent of the free money they are receiving to build and renovate housing intended to attract a more affluent kind of resident.

That doesn’t even include the profit from what each house will sell for.

Gabe Fritz, Director of the Office of Housing and Community Development, also said over email “[the] infusion of market rate housing, which is anticipated to range in price from the high $90,000’s to the low $150,000’s, is important for the neighborhood, as those sales will bolster the comps for proceeding real estate activity, and offer market rate housing in an area that hasn’t had a lot of activity in that market.”

Moreover, he added that all the homes — those build by CVC and those built by Rebound, Inc. — are part of the Russell Urban Renewal Initiative that began in the early 1990’s. The Cedar Street project, Fritz claimed, will “introduce expanded housing choices for residents in the metropolitan area.” In addition, the director said this project is one of several neighborhood development projects, including retail development along the 18th Street corridor, the planning grant around Choice neighborhoods, the Chef Space incubator in what used to be Jay’s Cafeteria, the West Louisville Foodport, and the Louisville Central Community Center project on Old Walnut Street.

Dunlap said over email the CVC and Rebound projects will help current residents “by inviting in families that choose to purchase in Russell and want to live in Russell.” Dunlap added that when people “make informed choices” they become “more invested” in their community, which in turn creates a more supportive environment, allowing long time residents to“take more pride in their neighborhood.”

This will, in theory, help in the repair and restoration of Russell’s many historic structures. The key, Dunlap said, is investment. “Public investment creates synergies that incentivize others to invest in neighborhoods.” Governments taking risk achieves results she claimed, because then “private investors know that they are not alone” when risks are reduced and the neighborhood “is on one accord.”