In the summer of 2017, Walter and Marshae Smith moved into a brand new, custom-built home on Cedar Street in West Louisville, near where they grew up. The couple has two kids, a dog, and a passion for their community, best exemplified by their community project – a blog called West of Ninth
There’s nothing unusual about their story – except that it is happening on Cedar Street, between 19th and 20th streets, in an area where home ownership rates hover below 30 percent.
The non-profit Community Ventures has partnered with Metro Louisville to build new market-rate homes on Cedar Street. It has 25 lots, and as of early 2018, five new homes have been purchased, with more under contract. Buyers choose from four to six different floor plans, and select their own carpeting, cabinets and colors.
“We want to get homeowners into the community,” says Jessica Morgan, director of Marketing and Public Relations for Community Ventures. “If you don’t own your home, you don’t own your community. You’re not vested in your community. You don’t call up your councilman or state legislator to make things happen in a proactive and positive way.”
Change is obvious when you approach this section of Cedar. Downtown’s skyline is visible to the east, and the new brick homes stand out. Rental homes on surrounding streets suffer from neglect. On Cedar, the city has installed new street lights, asphalt, gas, electric, and sewer systems, as well as new trees and grass.
For Community Ventures, the Cedar Street homes are part of an overall mission to create pride and investment
in West Louisville. The group’s Louisville headquarters are in the ChefSpace building on Muhammad Ali Boulevard, around the corner from Cedar. In addition to overseeing construction as the builder of the homes, Community Ventures works with buyers to make sure they’re ready to own their own home.
“We have a lot of interest in people wanting to own homes in West Louisville, people who want to stay in their community and be here,” Morgan says. “It’s a matter of making sure that they’re ready and at the right time of life. While we have a lot of interest, and we want to keep that going, we want to make sure we’re selling homes to someone who’s able to afford it.”
Morgan says the idea behind Cedar Street is to create one neighborhood of homeowners that will encourage others to make similar investments.
“It’s taking that first step into a community that has been forgotten by investors and developers,” she says. “We hope others will follow our footsteps and start to realize the value in West Louisville and create opportunities for home ownership.”
The first five homeowners represent a mix of family types and ages. Through word of mouth and community cookouts, word is spreading about the new homes. Community Ventures’ vision is to have a street complete with eye-catching market-rate homes, occupied by owners who take pride in their community, like Walter and Marshae Smith.
“We had a great experience and everyone was so kind. Community Ventures really helped determine if the steps we were making were the right ones,” the Smiths said in story on the Community Ventures website.