Cutting through the heart of one of Louisville’s oldest neighborhoods, dressed with destitute and dilapidated homes and an air of neglect, is Cedar Street. A thoroughfare from the downtown area to highway 64, Cedar Street stretches along the entirety of the Russell Neighborhood, a neighborhood that covers 480 acres and 300 blocks of Louisville’s historic downtown core. The air is still on Cedar Street, and the sun bakes the walkways and street corners, not a soul to be seen. It’s an urban desert, plagued by a lack of opportunity and scorched by decades of apathy. It wasn’t always this way.
Cedar Street and the entire Russell Neighborhood was once considered a prominent area where African-Americans lived lavishly and thrived economically. A hub of minority entrepreneurship, Russell was named after the Dean of Kentucky State University, Harvey Clarence Russell Sr., who presided over Kentucky State for most of the mid-late 19th century. In the early 20th century, Mr. Russell moved into the area now known as the Russell neighborhood.
Riding on the curtails of post-Civil War wealth in the area, European immigrants were the first to settle in the area with Basil Doerhoefer, a German developer and landowner, being one of the first to bring industry and homeownership to the area. The rise in land ownership and economic vitality resulted in many African-Americans moving into the area, seizing opportunities to open black-owned businesses along the streets of this cultural melting pot. Known for its prominence and status as the epicenter of black-owned businesses in Louisville, the Russell neighborhood, like many African-American neighborhoods across the country, fell victim to the economic fallout that resulted from integration.
As schools and businesses desegregated in the 1960’s, many middle-class African-American families saw it as an opportunity to move out of the area which resulted in urban renewal efforts that gouged the neighborhood of its character and sustenance. Low-income families remained in the neighborhood and the economic downfall led to an uptick in crime, gang activity, and drug trafficking.
Along Cedar Street, there is a hodge podge of boarded up windows, low-income housing, and abandoned parks. Community Ventures, in partnership with the Louisville Metro Government, hopes to change that. With a groundbreaking in early 2016, CV rang the bell of change, beckoning a new season of growth and opportunity in the Russell neighborhood. As part of a multi-faceted approach to neighborhood revitalization, CV is building 25 new homes along the main thoroughfare of West Louisville’s Russell neighborhood.
This plan will reduce the area’s vacancy rate and increase the area’s homeownership rate. Standing adjacent to Chef Space, Louisville’s first kitchen incubator, the Cedar Street Housing Development will be a beacon of homeownership and self-sustainability in a neighborhood that has struggled to see it in over 50 years. By addressing the need for businesses, jobs, and housing, Community Ventures will create a sense of place for area residents.