Published: 12:44 p.m. ET Sep. 13, 2016 Updated: 5:12 p.m. ET Sep. 13, 2016″
A sports complex, trade school, professional soccer stadium and an entertainment mall were among the wide-ranging ideas suggested by participants at the “West Louisville Visioning Session” Monday evening, to discuss the potential future of a 24-acre site that had been intended for a FoodPort project before plans recently were dropped.
The new VA hospital also was a popular concept, along with sit-down restaurants, a year-round “haymarket” operation, model housing local businesses, technology hub and a “life skills” training center or summer employment center for youth.
A diverse crowd of about 100 attended the gathering, held by the West Louisville Community Council, Louisville Urban League and Federal Reserve Bank at the league headquarters 1535 W. Broadway.
The aim was to brainstorm about the question, “What do we see at 30th & Muhammad Ali?” and participants also had a chance to say what they didn’t want to see. That included liquor stores, a biodigester, heavy or polluting industries, more fried food restaurants, flea markets, mega churches, a bingo hall, adult entertainment businesses, gun shops and anything that would attract trash, drugs and gangs.
The diverse crowd was divided up into small groups to discuss ideas, and the Rev. Rene Brown, an at-large west Lousiville representative, emphasized that everyone was on an equal footing and that all ideas were equally important. “We want to make sure we hear from the community,” he said, adding at the end of the session that he was “overjoyed and overwhelmed by the support.”
There was a lot of discussion about how to help youth in the area, and Marcus Harris said he would want a “multi-purpose sports complex” also to address the mental and physical health of youth. “It would help move the city forward,” he said.
Edward Newton, a track and cross country coach at Central High School and other coaches involved with the West Side Track Club and the Village of Lousiville track club, which practices at Iroquois High School, also want to see an indoor track facility that would enable them to hold meets and hold year-round training for youth who go to track meets out of state. Sadiqqua Reynold, head of the Urban League, said a state-of-the-art facility could generate revenue for the city and attract hotels and restaurants.
Jason Towns, with the Village of Louisville club, said he would like to see an academic component to a facility, too, that would help with ACT test preparation and other skills. Sherlena Watkins could imagine a training center where youth and adults could be paid to learn skills to work at such places as GE and Ford.
Donald Duncan said he thought the FoodPort was a “great idea” that would have been assimilated in a productive way into the Louisville economy, but he also is in favor of a “wind and solar mini-farm” to generate energy, he said. He said he could also see a “life-training” center for youth, and Elaine Duncan, his wife, said she would like it to include home economics skill-training.
Andrew Bartlett, who has solar panels on his roof in St. Matthews, said he could imagine a demonstration farm that could teach people to grow their own food.
Among the city leaders at the event were Metro Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton and Gretchen Milliken with the city’s Louisville Forward division. Milliken reported on ideas for her group and said the site was envisioned as having “places to get together,” such as a swimming pool and farmer’s market, in addition to facilities related to education, jobs and sports.
Ramona Lindsey, a leader with the West Louisville Council, said the next time the city considers a proposal for the site that it’s “extremely important” that it’s “something that’s endorsed by the community.” The committee was looking for more volunteers to help with drawing up documents about ideas to present to the city.
The committee is expected to meet again in October, but a definite date was not set at the meeting. There were also plans to set up a Facebook page, Brown said.