The Power of a Riverside Neighborhood

An ambitious neighborhood project forges an innovative bond between the people of Louisville’s Portland Neighborhood, New Directions, and Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville.  Portland Pride is a multi-year $1.75 million dynamo created to provide exterior rehabilitation to more than 80 homes.  Eligible home owners benefit from skilled contractor-provided repairs to the exteriors of their houses, with the goal of preserving the facades that give Portland its historic and distinctive river town character. 

Portland Proud is part of a three-year partnership between Louisville Metro Government and the Portland Neighborhood.  Obtaining this owner-occupied home rehabilitation program is the achievement of Portland NOW and residents of Portland who worked together to create a planned approach to neighborhood revitalization.  This is just the latest remarkable milestone for this two-century old neighborhood that emerged from the rough-and-tumble maritime trade of the Ohio River.

New Directions will work with the city to maximize benefits to homeowners and to support the vision of the Neighborhood Action Plan.

“Portland is the leader,” says Joe Gliessner, chief executive officer at New Directions.  “This is the first Louisville neighborhood to take on something this big.”

Portland Proud is unique.  For the first time in Louisville, the federal government has designated a Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA) of the US Housing and Urban Development Department.  Portland will be the first of many neighborhoods to try new approaches in revitalization.

“We stuck together, and created a new way to help the neighborhood, and possibly many other neighborhoods that will learn from what we do in Portland,” says Judy Schroader, Portland NOW spokesperson.

“Portland residents met with city officials over several months during 2010 to outline a revitalization plan that builds on our neighborhood’s best things: our proud homes and heritage.  Focusing on home exteriors will stretch federal funds in these tough economic times,” says Ms. Schroader. 

Joe Gliessner explains how the federal funding can help.  “Using federal Community Development Block Grant funds, Portland Proud grants will be available for households that earn up to 120% of area median income.  Participating homeowners will be asked to allow deed restrictions based on the qualifications. The deed restrictions will remain on the property for five years.” 

He continues, “And, since every house helped is important to the entire neighborhood, Portland NOW, New Directions and our partner, Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville, will work together to help as many homes as possible and will provide way for homeowners to learn about historic home maintenance since these homes are important to their families and the entire neighborhood.”

Gary Watrous, longtime Portland NOW member, commented on the kinds of exterior repairs that will be included in Portland Proud projects.  “Like a person, a home’s history is written on its face.  We want to preserve the character and historic value of our neighborhood homes, while ensuring that they are repaired and ready for many more years of service.”  He and others helped to write a Portland Facade Guide which will be consulted by contractors to inform scopes of work for each home.

In May 2011, New Directions Housing Corporation responded to a request for proposals for a non-profit organization with enough experience and capacity to administer the city’s $1.75 million Portland Neighborhood NRSA Homeowner Rehabilitation Program.

The proposal included working closely with Portland-based Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville, to use the new Administrative Office at 1620 Bank Street as a good place for homeowners to learn about Portland Proud.  Homeowners will also learn how to maintain homes after construction, to ensure long time value.

Since that time, two new funding partners have entered the scene:  Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, through its local member Fifth Third Bank, awarded $150,000 to New Directions from its Affordable Housing Program.  Kentucky Housing Corporation later matched that with an award from the Commonwealth’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Other New Directions successes and partnership participation in Portland

  • In 2002, New Directions was a founding member of the Portland Now Prevention Partnership (PNPP), helped secure a renewable federal grant to assess the substance abuse in the neighborhood and devise strategies to address those issues. 

  • In 2003, several Portland Neighborhood properties were acquired by New Directions during the Broad Street acquisition, and so were involved in the subsequent Lead Safe Louisville partnership with Louisville Metro Government.

  • Over 35 homes have received extensive repair help, thanks to the allocation of some of Repair Affair’s most skilled teams and the Louisville Metro Government Roof Program. 

Portland Synergy Square, Inc. a neighborhood organization, purchased the property located at 1700 Rowan Street in  Louisville.   New Directions then began renovation of the interior of the building to transform it into Heverin House, a small transitional shelter. This renovation was completed in May 1988. This important building at 1700 Rowan Street has played an important and restorative role in the lives of hundreds of single-parent homeless families.  Two have gone on to become Habitat for Humanity homeowners in the neighborhood.

Roosevelt School was a zenith in Portland’s relationship with New Directions. Twice damaged by fire, New Directions and Portland Development Organization saved the building and found a new purpose.  Roosevelt Apartments is located less than a block north of Heverin House.  Prior to acquisition and revitalization, the ruin of what was once Roosevelt Elementary School diminished opportunity for nearby housing investment.  After two fires, the building was left open to the elements and posed a real danger to neighborhood children.  Neighborhood leaders and the Landmarks Commission blocked earlier efforts to demolish the oldest building (1867).  What was needed was a proactive solution that preserved what was left of the historic landmark. 

In 1996, New Directions began a $4.2 million comprehensive restoration and adaptive reuse of the property, resourced by The City of Louisville via HOME funds, Historic Tax Credits, and mortgage financing through Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati with National City.  The result is a 60,000 square foot housing community with 47 units, an on-site office, resident laundry facility, and a community meeting space.  Roosevelt Apartments has been honored with numerous awards for design and preservation.   New Directions continues to manage and reinvest in the site.

From 2008 to 2010, New Directions and Portland’s Neighborhood House worked intensively together via Metro United Way’s Bridges to Tomorrow, an innovative collaborative that invested in services at Neighborhood House via the on-site child development center and through community-based coaching in financial empowerment.  Portland’s family coach was a featured speaker during the October 2010 Community Leadership Institute hosted by New Directions.