Multi-million dollar grant seeks to empower Russell residents as neighborhood undergoes renaissance

Updated: Aug. 15, 2018 at 7:28 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Money is pouring in to the Russell neighborhood of Louisville in an attempt to help residents and local businesses prosper without displacement.

It's called Russell: A Place of Promise.

Louisville Metro Government, Cities United and the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust awarded a $5 million grant to launch the program.

It's an ambitious plan to invest in current residents to create wealth, economic opportunity and better futures for themselves. This involves creating more affordable housing -- including new homeownership -- and attracting new jobs and businesses. Current residents will also get a leg up to launch their own businesses.

Right now, the Russell neighborhood is on the brink of a transformation from several major projects -- including Heritage West, the West Louisville YMCA, Passport Health moving its headquarters, streetscape developments at 9th and Broadway and 18th and Broadway, the expansion of Waterfront Park and the demolition and rebuilding of Beecher Terrace. It's also seen recent improvements from Vision Russell, the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage and the kitchen incubator Chef Space.

Many times, as investment is made in struggling communities, gentrification results in residents and business owners no longer being able to afford to live in the place they've called home for years, sometimes generations.

Russell: A Place of Promise will focus on working closely with Russell residents and groups to build on the foundations already existent in the community. With this $5 million donation, the hope is to equip the neighborhood with the resources it needs to prosper -- in a way that maintains its identity and culture.

Louisville Metro, Urban League sign $30 million Heritage West redevelopment deal
Small businesses in Russell neighborhood look forward to Passport Health development
Major plans to revamp 9th Street in the works; city seeks feedback
Demolition to begin at Beecher Terrace
Dixie Highway becomes 18th Street in downtown Louisville
Ground broken for West Louisville YMCA
New Passport Health location could bring jobs for ex-offenders

"The initiative will connect Russell residents and businesses that have been the backbone of the neighborhood with opportunities to build long-term individual and community wealth so that planned and underway new investment creating a renaissance in Russell does not result in their displacement," a press release about the project read.

The project seeks to create a national model for "equitable community development in African-American communities."

For those unfamiliar with the history of the Russell neighborhood, this is an excerpt from the city:

"Russell is a historically African-American neighborhood long referred to as the "Harlem of the South." Despite a rich cultural history, decades of disinvestment and neglect due to then-legal racial discrimination in housing and business policy, including the practice of redlining, have left a lasting impact on Russell. As a result of these broken systems, neighborhood residents face higher hurdles related to employment, educational attainment, and access to neighborhood goods, services and health care."

Part of the plan for Russell: A Place of Promise also includes developing new community gathering spots and whole-community health.

There are three upcoming public meetings for the community to learn about the project:

  • Tuesday, Aug. 28 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Joshua Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church
  • Thursday, Aug. 30 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Baxter Community Center
  • Saturday, Sept. 8 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. -- location to be announced

Anyone who would like more information about these meetings should email

The initial advisory board for this project includes the following individuals:

  • Dana Jackson, Better Together Strategies
  • Alice Houston, HJI Supply Chain Solutions
  • Jackie Floyd, Center for Neighborhoods
  • David Snardon, Joshua Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church and Concerned Pastors of Russell
  • Kevin Dunlap, Rebound
  • Gill Holland, impact entrepreneur, small scale developer and community builder
  • Dorian Burton, Assistant Executive Director of the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust
  • Trisha Finnegan, Vice President of Mission & Impact at the Community Foundation of Louisville

This project will work in relation to another initiative funded with an additional $5 million grant from William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust -- a fellowship for young African-American men ages 22 to 26 providing training to serve in civic leadership, as well as opportunities for education, careers and leadership development.

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