Louisville ARP money helps renovate historic community center

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The Baxter Community Center may not have guests inside to learn, relax and connect with neighbors at this time, and there may be no children playing outside on its basketball court.

But the emptiness at the Russell neighborhood gathering place near the Beecher Terrace apartments is for good reason.

In other words, the beloved “BCC” which opened in 1940 and closed about five years ago when Beecher Terrace has been redeveloped is soon to be renovated, inside and out.

The project took “a long time to come,” said Jecorey metro adviser, D-4th arrondissementwho gets questions about the center every time he visits Beecher Terrace.

But after several delays, work is expected to begin on the building soon thanks in part to the $6 million US federal bailout that members of the Louisville Metro Council approved for the project earlier this year.

Improvements to the center will include updates to the roof, plumbing, Wi-Fi and basketball court, as well as the addition of an accessible playground and an expanded parking lot. The building’s main entrance will also be relocated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The historic 14,436 square foot Art Deco building on Cedar Court sits next to the building designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Baxter Square, which housed Louisville’s first cemetery and is its oldest public park.

Officials hope to award a construction contract in the coming months and see the renovation completed in 2024, said Kathleen O’Neil, executive planner and coordinator of Choice Neighborhoods at the Louisville Metro Housing Authority.

The total cost of the Baxter Community Center project is about $11.6 million, according to O’Neil, with $1.9 million in federal funding. Neighborhoods of choice funding and city money helping to cover expenses as well as the $6 million ARP stipend.

O’Neil noted the particular importance of improving and preserving the three-story center in Russell, one of Louisville’s West End historically black neighborhoods that in the past had not received the same amount of funding. investment that areas like downtown and NuLu.

A rendering shows the renovated and expanded Baxter Community Center in the Russell neighborhood of Louisville, with the project slated for completion by 2024.

“Community centers haven’t received that kind of investment,” she said. “Everyone hopes this will be the flagship community center.”

When it opened, the Baxter Community Center was “the heart of the community,” O’Neil added, offering everything from health care, dental care and community programs to sports and recreation options.

The evolution of the Baxter Community Center is part of vision Russell, the multi-year partnership between the Louisville Metro Government, the LMHA and neighborhood residents to transform this historic part of Louisville into an area where people have safe and convenient access to the services, resources, businesses and homes they need and they deserve.

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White Washphotographer and filmmaker who made a documentary in 2020, “The Beecher Terrace”, on the social housing complex, said local residents “really need” a new community center, noting that the basement of the BCC was once a polio vaccination site in the middle of the 20th century and that Muhammad Ali’s brother, Rahman, once worked at the center.

“He has a rich history in the community,” White said.

What are the improvements?

In addition to the roof and plumbing, much of the “components and systems” of the Baxter Community Center will be updated, including its heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems, according tothe Vision Russell website.

New energy-efficient windows and doors will also be installed.

A mural is on the north side of the Baxter Community Center.  Louisville is using $6 million of its US federal bailout funding to renovate and expand the Baxter Community Center, 1125 Cedar Ct., which is near Beecher Terrace in the Russell neighborhood.

To meet ADA requirements, the community center is also getting a 4,525 square foot addition that will allow for a new west side main entrance with a ramp, reception and check-in area, office and lounge as well as a a new open staircase and elevator.

“The entire design of the building was guided by the feedback we received from the community,” O’Neil said. “One of the biggest challenges was that the building was not accessible. Very steep front steps and very long ramps made it difficult for Metro Parks staff to see who was entering and exiting.

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Exterior improvements will include a refurbished basketball court on the east side of the building and an accessible playground and expanded parking areas on the west. On the north side of the building, an existing mural may also be refreshed based on community feedback, O’Neil said.

O’Neil noted that community members said the east side basketball court “was an important rite of passage” for many aspiring players and athletes.

“Once you get good enough to play on this court, it says a lot about your athleticism,” O’Neil said.

Metro Parks will operate the redeveloped BCC with partners such as The Beech, an after-school tutoring center that was previously housed nearby in a few apartments on Beecher Terrace.

Rose M. Livingston, a former Jefferson County Public Schools administrator who retired as vice-principal at Ballard High School in 2015, founded what became The Beech in 2006 to help families and many Ballard students who lived in Beecher Terrace and took longer bus rides. to and from East End School.

The pandemic has put The Beech and its work “sort of on the shelf,” but Livingston said Baxter’s revitalized community center will help the center serve even more students and their parents in a comfortable atmosphere.

“Your learning space meets your expectations,” said Livingston. “You want it to be motivating and inspiring.”

A rendering of the redeveloped Baxter Community Center

O’Neil said the center also hopes “other support service providers will come in to provide additional programming, possibly weekend hours and extended hours as well.”

Over the next five years, O’Neil said Baxter Square Park, a popular source of shade in the summer thanks to several towering trees, could also see improvements, including landscaping and a memorial to the old cemetery. Archaeological work will identify the boundaries of the ancient cemetery and ensure that no remains are disturbed, she added.

All of the changes, O’Neil and others said, will help current and future generations of local residents have a safe, vital and inviting space to turn to in Russell.

Contact Billy Kobin at [email protected]

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