Why West Louisville?
How will the site be managed?
What About the Anaerobic Digester?
Food Access & Retail
Community Participation and Benefits
Pre-Activation of the FoodPort site
How can my business locate in the FoodPort?
How can I learn more?
The plan to develop a food project in West Louisville was originally based on work done by the Mayor’s Taskforce, who identified Portland as the first LIFE Zone (Locally-Integrated Food Enterprise Zone). The initial idea was to identify a vacant warehouse in East Portland and renovate it to serve the needs of a combination of food aggregation, distribution, processing, kitchen incubator and business services.
Over time, as the project evolved into a much more diverse set of programs (including farming, recycling and retail), it was clear more space was needed than an existing warehouse could provide. And since a key element of the model was co-locating existing businesses, it was important to have one location, not several disconnected spaces. Working with Louisville Metro’s economic development team to find a parcel of city-owned land that would suit the many needs noted above, the property at 3029 Muhammad Ali Blvd (the former National Tobacco site) emerged as an ideal location. The city agreed, and in September 2014 gave non-profit Seed Capital KY an option to buy the property for use as the West Louisville FoodPort.
Seed Capital KY hopes to complete the city entitlement process to own the land by Fall/Winter of 2015, with groundbreaking to follow in March 2016.
Seed Capital KY is serving as a nonprofit developer of the site, coordinating the fundraising, construction process, and business development. After the FoodPort is up and running, Seed Capital KY will coordinate tenant leases and payments, building maintenance, and various vendor relationships, at least for the short term. Any revenues from the development (including tenant leases, etc) will be re-invested into the FoodPort and its programming.
For the longer term, Seed Capital KY and the WLFP Community Council are starting to research the potential for community ownership of the site. We’re looking at unique and rare community ownership projects such as Market Creek Plaza.
An anaerobic digester that was originally proposed as a green energy component of the FoodPort project, making the site nearly-zero waste, has been removed from the project, as reflected in the FoodPort’s submitted development plan on August 13, 2015. Seed Capital KY believes that anaerobic digestion is a safe and environmentally sound way to capture energy, reduce greenhouse gases, recycle (or compost) our food waste, and provide green jobs – however, as it is not a desired component of the FoodPort project by neighboring residents, this component has been removed. The West Louisville FoodPort, in wanting to be a good neighbor, takes this step forward in good faith with its community.
Will the FoodPort bring affordable food to the neighborhood?
The FoodPort isn’t a traditional food access project, though we recognize that this is a food-based economic and community development project located in a low food access and low income area. All the FoodPort businesses and organizations are sensitive to creating new food opportunities that create more and better access points for all. The core of the FoodPort project, and what will enable it to successfully get off the ground in its early stages, are providing existing businesses the capacity they need to grow in scale and therefore in the amount of local product they are moving, and the profits and success they are able to reach as a sustainable business. We’re not talking large corporations here, just small businesses trying to become more viable amidst the slim margins of local food.
The businesses’ ability to create more scale around local foods will translate to greater food access for our city, at first seen through institutions such as schools, hospitals, restaurants, and grocers. Their ability to scale will also create the possibility for living wage jobs, which will in turn allow for greater economic options and lifestyles for those working in those new positions. Economics is an important part of food access, and one that we feel very strongly about – change a person’s ability to earn and gain in the workplace, and you create a host of better opportunities, for food access and beyond.
In terms of physical access to food, the FoodPort will be part of the solution. The FoodPort’s Phase 1 includes food retail opportunities, and we’re currently searching for retail partners – if you know of any, please send them our way! Most of the businesses we talk to each week reach out to us having heard about the project through media or word of mouth, and we haven’t heard from many retail establishments yet. We’ve had a handful of early conversations with retail operators, and are hopeful to have many, many more in order to locate the best businesses to compliment the site, the neighborhood, the collaborative nature of the FoodPort. This is very much an evolving process, harnessing many moving pieces.
SCKY as a developer of the project is overseeing the facilitation of the site to serve shared end goals, but it is not planning to run programming – such as running a food hub, a grocery, etc. We want to help those who already run such businesses or have a strong passion to do so make their vision a successful reality. Because of the importance of food access issues in daily life and the potential for FoodPort partnerships in this vein, we also want to work with food access non-profits that have more expertise in the realm of addressing access issues, and are already working in West Louisville.
How will the FoodPort connect with West Louisville, local residents, and other groups?
As it’s evolved, the FoodPort stands to become a pretty comprehensive and food-centric economic and community development engine that will create jobs for West Louisville residents, enhance the built environment and green space of surrounding disinvested neighborhoods, enable existing small businesses to grow, increase farmers’ income as they increase their market channels, enable new businesses to take their first steps, and provide educational opportunities around agriculture and eating.
This big effort will take many hands. Seed Capital KY is currently working in partnership with a number of partners on various aspects of the site and project development, has lined up some interested small businesses that want to be a part of this project, but sees the need for more partnerships with existing community groups and more conversations with area residents and potential user communities (farmers, nonprofits, businesses, residents). We are also connecting to other community strategies and initiatives including Zones of Hope, the Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant process, Community Ventures, and others.
A growing West Louisville FoodPort Community Council is helping to shape the development of the FoodPort and the benefits it will bring to the various communities it serves. This body is actively tackling the specifics of workforce development, the delineation and creation of community benefits (examples could include an agreement between the developer and residents, assisting in the creation of new businesses within and outside of the FoodPort, development of ownership/stakeholder opportunities for West Louisville residents, and many more – these conversations are just beginning), and determining communications strategies for FoodPort outreach, messaging, and events.
Establishing the FoodPort as a community asset for West Louisville is a critical priority for all involved. In addition to being a place of business, the site aims to create desirable public spaces including an outdoor plaza for markets and gathering, green space with open access, as well as recreational opportunities such as basketball courts and a playground. The site will incorporate bus stop improvements on Market Street, and retail a few steps away from that, which could include a coffee shop or cafe.
What local food businesses and neighborhood features would you like to see? Let us know!
Fun is a FoodPort Value
For folks currently working on the FoodPort Project Team, and how we’re trying to approach the development process, “fun” is one of many values we’re carrying forward each day.
We want to have fun on the site without waiting 2 years until the FoodPort doors open. In that vein, the WLFP Community Council is having early conversations on possible block parties or other “pre-activation” events that bring West Louisville neighbors and neighborhoods together for fun, connecting, and celebration. Events will also be planned that engage various other communities of the FoodPort: events specific to farmers, local businesses, etc. Stay tuned to our and Twitter feed, and sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page. Look forward to seeing you there.
Are jobs available to West Louisville residents? Is there a hiring strategy for living wage jobs?
Yes! West Louisville’s unemployment rate is terribly high: 23.6% vs. 6.6% for the rest of Louisville as a whole. From the time the FoodPort’s concept first emerged, and the site selected, the plan was to provide a job source for West Louisville residents. The new Workforce Development workgroup of the Community Council has just held their first meeting and started discussing how these jobs will be offered and ensured, and everyone on the Project Team is on board with this goal. This aspect of the project is non-negotiable in our eyes. At this time, we’re expecting to have 275 construction jobs, in addition to 200+ permanent jobs. All jobs will pay above minimum wage.
Other partners helping to coordinate a comprehensive workforce strategy include KentuckianaWorks, YouthBuild, the Kentucky Career Center at the NIA Center, and Jefferson Community and Technical College. These jobs will include on-site training, career path employment and second chance opportunities for ex-offenders. We’re about two years out from a job starting at the FoodPort, but are already shaping these components to make sure they are good and ready when the time comes.
Aside from jobs being offered by existing businesses, we’re excited by jobs that might be created through new ownership opportunities. That is, helping new businesses take flight, whether they are service businesses that serve the FoodPort and nearby businesses, or food-based businesses that serve the city and region. Continuing conversations in the next 2, 3, and 5+ years will help this idea take shape. If you’re an entrepreneur, please introduce yourself, and tell us about your work!
Seed Capital KY is actively recruiting local food-oriented businesses and organizations to locate at the FoodPort. We can offer lease terms competitive to the area, and possible custom build out of your space; we’re looking for folks excited to work collaboratively with neighbor businesses in order to strengthen and grow the local food economy. Please contact Caroline Heine, Project Director if you’re interested in learning more.
Many ways – you can visit seedcapitalky.org and sign up for newsletter updates at the bottom page; Like us on Facebook to stay up to date on news and announcements; follow us on Twitter; and visit the FoodPort pages at Seed Capital Kentucky’s website.
Still have questions? Watch Mayor Greg Fischer, Seed Capital co-founder Caroline Heine, and some of our FoodPort partners talk about the project and answer more questions at our community update at Westport Middle School.
Email us anytime with any questions, comments, or ideas on how this unique project can best deliver on its goals.