Signs Of Prosperity In Louisville

Hopes are high that new bank andsupermarket will `empower' community

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The Louisville, Kentucky, empowerment zone is touting the emergence of two new structures–a supermarket and community bank–they hope will provide financial anchors to a long economically depressed area.

The Louisville Community Development Bank will focus its lending and banking services in the city’s most financially distressed areas, says Kim Burse, president and CEO of the Louisville Development Bancorp Inc., the bank’s holding company. According to Burse, approximately 90,000 residents live in the Louisville communities of West End, Smoketown, Shelby Park and Phoenix Hill, 77% of whom are African American.

The bank’s goal, says Burse, is to help expand and create businesses as well as provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs, improve housing development and act as a liaison between the employers and residents in the area.

On the other end of the spectrum, the zone will also be home to the city’s first large-scale black-owned supermarket complex. At 23,486 sq. ft., Parkland Plus market is a far call from the corner mom-and-pop stores that have generally populated the area. And more than just being a source of pride to the community and employing 52 local residents, the complex, the owners hope, will play a significant role in revitalizing the neighborhood.

“It took almost five years to sell the city on this project,” says Edwin Fox, who along with his wife, Donna, owns the complex. “But the project always fascinated me because I know what this area used to be like.”

Ben Richmond, president of the Louisville Urban League, says in time, both projects will provide a much needed stimulus to the community. “They’re not going to show results tomorrow,” he says. “But I think patience and groups working cooperatively will provide results.”