Neighbors express mixed feelings about changing neighborhoods - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Neighbors express mixed feelings about changing neighborhoods

The Smoketown and Shelby Park neighborhoods are changing. (Source: WAVE 3 News) The Smoketown and Shelby Park neighborhoods are changing. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Gregory Acker (Source: WAVE 3 News) Gregory Acker (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Brenda Wirth (Source: WAVE 3 News) Brenda Wirth (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Randall Webber (Source: WAVE 3 News) Randall Webber (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Costella Priest (Source: WAVE 3 News) Costella Priest (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The Smoketown and Shelby Park neighborhoods are changing.
 
Some neighbors, as they await the change, say they are worried. Some say they are excited about new developments.
 
Gregory Acker and Brenda Wirth live in Shelby Park. When it comes to charm, their house is the epitome.

“It’s not cookie-cutter, it’s you know - each house has its own charm,” Acker said, describing the houses in Shelby Park and Smoketown.
 
“Having a piece of history that you’re living in and also caring for, I think for me, that’s the appeal,” Acker said.
 
Acker spent 27 years in Shelby Park, improving and loving his home. Brenda Wirth joined him about 20 years ago.
 
“We decided to see if our arts could work together,” Wirth said with a giggle.

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Wirth is an artist, and Acker is a musician. Both say that bringing their two properties on East Kentucky Street wasn’t an easy journey.
 
“I was looking for a house, I was renting,” Wirth said. “I felt like the bank was laughing at me, when I went in to see if I could get a loan to buy house.”
 
Almost every other corner in Smoketown or Shelby Park has a house that’s being worked on. Wirth says things definitely have changed, but one thing still affects a lot of the people in these neighborhoods.
 
“That feeling of ‘I can never do this,’ affects many people around here,” Wirth said. “It may be lack of employment or low employment.”
 
“Those are the people I’m most worried about as an artist myself but also as a low income person,” Acker added.
 
In 1990, Acker and Wirth’s house was worth $25,000. In 2015, when their property was last assessed, it was nearly $150,000. Randall Webber, president of the Smoketown neighborhood association says those kind of figures make it hard for original residents to own homes.
 
“We’re very concerned about what gentrification might do,” Webber said. “We’re looking at all our options.”
 
However, not everyone is concerned. Costella Priest left Smoketown for 30 years and recently returned. After spending three decades away, she says the changes are welcome.
 
“We’ve got a medical center that’s going to be built in our building, it’s all going to be nice,” Priest said. “Everything will come together before you know it, the hospitals are near it’s going to make everything nice.”
 
These neighborhoods walk a fine line between development and equal opportunity.
 
“Fairness is a complicated question here but I think certainly what we would love to see change is to have some home ownership opportunities again especially for people who have neighborhood ties,” Acker said.
 
“I wish it was easier for people I really do,” Wirth added. “I’d love to see that - I think it would be a great neighborhood, if people could afford to live here.”
 
A musician, an artist, a president and the one who came home - they all have visions. What unites them is one hope that Smoketown will rise again.
 
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