Coronavirus Threatens $35 Million Redevelopment Project in Kentucky

April 1, 2020
Kentucky Bridge
Image by Craig McCourt from Pixabay

The Department of Homeland Security may have declared construction an essential business, but the stay-at-home orders shuttering many restaurants and local businesses threaten the redevelopment of some of America’s poorest neighborhoods. In Louisville, Kentucky, the Portland neighborhood was gearing up for a revitalization: Gill Holland’s Portland Investment Initiative renovated millions of dollars worth of buildings and even commissioned the neighborhood’s first multifamily development in a generation, which rang in at $3 million. But now, Mr. Holland is worried that some of the over 60 properties he bought will remain empty as the restaurants and residents he courted are facing unprecedented times. 

Until the coronavirus pandemic, Gill Holland spent six years and $35 million constructing new residences and renovating 19th- and 20th-century warehouses in Portland, a historic neighborhood on the Ohio River that is Louisville’s oldest and one of its poorest.

Mr. Holland’s Portland Investment Initiative had bought more than 60 properties and filled them with businesses and residents new to the racially diverse neighborhood, where roughly 10,000 people live.

The project, the largest real estate investment in Portland in at least a century, is awakening civic energy that has been dormant for decades.

But its momentum is threatened by the coronavirus outbreak. Gov. Andy Beshear closed sit-down service in Kentucky restaurants and bars on March 16, and issued a separate closure order for other businesses nine days later.

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