Add Event My Events Log In

Upcoming Events

    Magazine

    Print this page

    Dan Hall remembers the smells. Sweet bakery smells, Brown-Forman bourbon, tobacco from the manufacturing plants. Cotton candy from the penny stores, afternoon-matinee popcorn. A west Louisville childhood in the ’50s and ’60s.

    At some point, the smells evaporated. After Hall left and came back and left again. Dartmouth, Harvard Law. Married another native of west Louisville, another product of Central High School. They returned to Louisville in 1976, bought their first house at 44th Street and River Park Drive in Shawnee. Had a couple kids, moved to Washington, D.C., came back with another little one on the way and bought a home in a subdivision just east of Middletown. “Someone who grew up in the inner-city turned out to be a suburbanite, much to my chagrin at the time,” Hall says. He leans forward over the long wooden table in his office in Grawemeyer Hall at the University of Louisville, where he’s the vice president of community engagement. “I would like to see west Louisville become a point of destination,” Hall says. “When new families move into our community. When young couples are looking to make that first investment, like we did, in a home. When they’re looking for neighborhoods that have great schools and amenities such as nice restaurants, places to shop, neighborhoods that are safe, like the neighborhoods I grew up in — California, Parkland and Shawnee. That’s what I hope west Louisville will be in the future.”

    Hall was skeptical when Craig Blakely, dean of U of L’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences, mentioned One West. Blakely had participated in Leadership Louisville’s 2014 Bingham Fellows class, a kind of local who’s-who think tank. The focus: west Louisville. Developer Steve Poe, also part of the Bingham Fellows class, proposed something called One West. It won a $10,000 planning grant from UPS. The idea: a nonprofit to “stimulate economic development in the West End with a primary focus on the built environment.”

    “That was music to my ears,” Hall says. He joined the board. “My skepticism immediately turned to optimism after our first board meeting (in January), when I saw the players around the table: three (local) sitting presidents and CEOs of major banks.” He means Tom Partridge of Fifth Third, Paul Costel of Chase and Chuck Denny of PNC. “That was eye-opening to see them investing their time in this new venture, and not just sending someone,” Hall says.

    “When I think of built environment, it’s all aspects,” Partridge says. “To me, it’s like: Do we have the right transportation infrastructure in place? You’ve got to think about housing infrastructure, business infrastructure. To me, built environment means everything a community can bring together to make it grow and thrive. Business, jobs, housing, transportation. It is a lot to take on. Like anything else, you’re not going to see a change overnight. But the reality is, we’ve had this issue in this market for a long time, and I frankly appreciate the courage that some people are taking to study this and make this a better situation for the community.”

    “Our board is probably our greatest achievement thus far,” Jean Porter says one February morning in the Poe Companies building on River Road. The place looks like a warehouse from outside. Inside, tiny models of condos gleam like trophies. Porter, the former managing editor of the Courier-Journal, leads me to a small conference room beside her new office. Being the One West “volunteer coordinator” has perks: laptop, cell phone, workspace, stipend. Just enough to keep things running. The rest of One West: a 24-person board and the supporting Bingham Fellows team, which Porter says has about 15 active members.

    And the board is more than bankers. Nine west Louisville residents represent their neighborhoods. Also: Jeff Bringardner of Humana, Malcolm Berkley from UPS, representatives from the James Graham Brown and Gheens foundations. “When we started working on the board, we had one thing in mind, and that was that it needed to represent a cross section of the community,” Porter says. “It couldn’t just be people who live and work in west Louisville. It couldn’t just be people who didn’t live and work in west Louisville. It needed to be inclusive in that way. We want people who can bring ideas to the table but also bring experience in getting things done. And, to be frank, the power of their institutions. It will take a lot of money. These are people who know how to raise money. We’re going to need millions of dollars to do want we want to do.” Porter says One West will seek funding locally and federally, and from private donors. One West will need an investment fund of about $10 million, and an operating budget of about $1 million for the first two years after hiring staff. Poe says that he hopes to hire a strategic planning consultant, an executive director and a staff in the next year.

    But Porter doesn’t know exactly what One West will do yet. She compares it to 3CDC, a nonprofit that has worked to revitalize Cincinnati’s downtown core and long-neglected Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. In December, the One West Bingham Fellows team hosted a community conversation at Quinn Chapel in Russell. “We wanted to be sure that people who aren’t on our board — who aren’t on our team but have ideas about development in west Louisville — got their voices heard,” Porter says. “We’re going to go to Shawnee. There’s going to be one in Chickasaw and hopefully in Portland. Throughout the year, we will hopefully have one of these once a month so people can come out and tell us what they think.”

    Porter says that, because One West is a private corporation, it can operate outside political cycles. A few members of the Bingham Fellows team work for Metro Government, and Mayor Fischer appointed Mary Ellen Wiederwohl from his staff to the One West board. “They have great potential if they align with our office,” Fischer told Louisville Magazine. “We don’t need 10 different amazing solutions; we need one coordinated, aligned system that we’re all working on.”

    “We can and will take a look at 10-year programs,” Poe says. “Government, a lot of times, because of funding and elections, only looks at things in one-, two- or four-year increments.” He mentions Waterfront Park. “Thirty years ago, there was nothing but junkyards, but a group came together with a mission to do something, and look where we are today,” he says. “It’s really about people coming together to focus on one issue.”

    Poe says One West is open to collaboration. “Remember, we’re an organization that’s only had a board of directors for 30 days. Let’s keep that in mind,” he says. “But I certainly could see us helping. I could see us doing something to help Gill Holland in Portland. Walmart’s being developed. I could see us helping — not doing the Walmart but helping build on the momentum of that. You’ve got (Seed Capital Kentucky’s) ‘food port.’ There are all these things that I think we would take an active interest in. Those are project-based, but then there are organizations in the West End that I think we would try to find ways to partner with. And once again, help raise and provide capital for things that are working on a long-term basis.”

    “We are not oblivious to what’s going on, and we don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Porter says. “If you’re doing something already, our thought is: How can we help?”

    Written by Dylon Jones, photo by William DeShazer. 

    This article is part of a series in Louisville Magazine's March Issue. To continue reading and or subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. 

    Dylon Jones's picture

    About Dylon Jones

    Dylon Jones is a senior editor at Louisville Magazine.

    More from author:  

    Share On: