LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Downtown Louisville's newest public housing development is keeping its old name. But Smoketown's new Sheppard Square will include apartments for those with higher incomes too.
The public-housing development is smoke-free and green-certified as environmentally-sound and energy efficient. The units feature private balconies, large rooms with 9-foot ceilings and even garden plots.
"It's homey, but it's up to date," said Bertha Jones, a resident of Liberty Green, the former Clarksdale project, as she toured the development Monday following ceremonies dedicating Phase 1.
"It represents a renewal, a rebirth for the community," said David Tandy, the Metro Council member whose district includes the Smoketown neighborhood.
"The hope and optimism and the services that we surround the residents with, that basically says we believe in you," Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer said.
Fischer and Tandy were referring to the formula for Hope VI, the federal program that pairs Uncle Sam's money with dollars from state, local and private investors to cover Sheppard Square's $101 million redevelopment costs.
"It's about the folks that work here, and are making a living wage to go out and reinvest in the community," said Hal Keller, of the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, the non-profit that helped put together the funding package.
Hope VI's philosophy helps explain why 59 of Sheppard Square's 287 units will rent for market rates to residents earning higher incomes than what would qualify for subsidies. A two-bedroom will rent for $620 per month. A three-bedroom $750.
"It offers safety and economic security for residents, " said U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, the Louisville Democrat who helped secure the Hope VI funding. "It brings the potential for new jobs and opportunity for local businesses."
"I know that it makes the city grow," said community activist Mary Touray, who grew up in the West End's Beecher Terrace public housing development. "It makes people grow because you live with different people. Then you don't know that you are poor."
Touray is grateful to learn that former residents will receive first priority for units in the new Sheppard Square. But she worries that several Somali immigrants, moved when demolition began, will be left out.
"More than likely, they might not even know how to apply," she said.
The Louisville Metro Housing Authority said help is coming on that score as well. The eight-phase development will include 32 apartments for veterans, the elderly and the disabled at the former Presbyterian Community Center. Twenty-three single-family homes will be constructed along Hancock Street.
Off-site, 54 rental units will be built in partnership with the Downtown Family Scholar House. Nine more single-family homes will go up in partnership with the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and 81 public housing rental units will be added at variety of sites. All construction is set to be completed by December 2015.
Jones treated Monday's walk-through as an opportunity to scout out apartments for her brother and for a member of her church
"I know they'll love it because it's what they're looking for," she said. "Everybody's different. But everybody should have equal opportunity to live where they want to live and feel comfortable, and not feel ashamed because they don't have the money to pay an elaborate price."