Louisville Waterfront Park
Louisville Waterfront Park - ©"WaterfrontPkDwnt" by Censusdata at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WaterfrontPkDwnt.jpg#/media/File:WaterfrontPkDwnt.jpg

West Louisville FoodPort

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Main actors

Local Government, Private Sector

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Project area

Neighborhood or district

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Ongoing since 2012/02

Huge FoodPort project set to benefit small/medium farmers and reduce supply chain to bring consumers closer to their food sources.

The FoodPort project is a food-centric economic and community development engine that will create jobs for West Louisville residents, enhance the built environment and green space of surrounding disinvested neighborhoods, enable existing small businesses to grow, increase farmers’ income as they increase their market channels, enable new food businesses to take their first steps, and provide educational opportunities around eating and agriculture.

The plan is to transform the 24-acre brownfield into a seed-to-waste food chain where food is grown, harvested, processed, sold, eaten and even disposed into a bio-digester to be converted to methane gas and returned to the energy stream. Along each step of this process, members of the Louisville community have a chance to work, learn, nourish, commune and invest in their own futures and that of their city.

Sustainable Development Goals

End hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Louisville, United States

Size and population development
about 750,000 in 2015

Population composition
70.6% White; 22.9% Black or African American; 4.5% Hispanic or Latino (source: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/21/2148006.html)

Main functions
largest city in Kentucky

Main industries / business
shipping industry; health care and medical sciences industries; tobacco industry

Political structure
the Metro Mayor (executive) and the Metro Council (legislative) form the "Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government"

Administrative structure
Louisville merged with the Jefferson County in 2003

The FoodPort concept is unique, and incorporates co-locating existing businesses along the local food supply chain in a collaborative model, leveraging the assets of each to gain scale and efficiency in aggregating and distributing local food, while also allowing each of the businesses to focus on its individual operations, goals and objectives. This model offers the potential to realize significant growth in the local food economy by providing infrastructure support to businesses that are poised for growth, and already have relationships with regional farmers.
The FoodPort is a comprehensive project engaging many partners in the quest to reach a broad range of goals:
  • Increased access to locally - and regionally - sourced foods in the Louisville Metro area
  • Increased income for regional farmers based on agreements from wholesale buyers to purchase larger volumes
  • Job creation, including workforce training and second chance workforce opportunities
  • Small business and entrepreneurial opportunities for members of the West Louisville community
  • Environmental improvements, including the addition of multiple acres of horticultural operations, planting of dozens of trees, storm water capture techniques, and permeable surfaces and parking areas
  • Community programming, including cooking and nutrition classes, and horticulture programming
  • Creation of public “third” spaces – gathering places, playground & rec spaces, event spaces for neighbours and visitors, and walking areas for neighbours
  • Development of retail businesses to serve the area
  • Educational opportunities for students and visitors to learn about the local food system
  • As a unique Midwestern “non-coastal” model of innovation, the FoodPort becomes a destination site bringing visitors to West Louisville 
The FoodPort in Louisville, while having project partners that perform their own aggregation of local products in the making of their goods, is a larger-than-hub site that can be most easily understood as a sort of food business park. It’s more than the sum of its parts, and will allow the co-location of local food-sourcing businesses to create synergies, the ability to scale their businesses larger, and new opportunities for other businesses – including an actual hub – to join the efforts at this site.
Their design for the comprehensive site takes into account food-based commerce (and potential growth therein on the site), green design elements – from storm water collection to heating and landscaping, logistical and traffic needs, as well as engaging design and public spaces. The building’s design draws from the street grids of the area’s respective waterfront “towns” as well as the terminating streets at either side of the project site, to create a dynamic space that aligns industry-related traffic and activities to the West side of the site, by the active rail line, and the public areas to the East, where entrance and egress is far easier, and a visual sightline to downtown Louisville can be featured.

Lease terms competitive to the area will be developed as the project moves forward.

  • June-October: Conduct city-wide research to quantify demand for local food in Louisville
  • December: Publish Louisville Local Food Demand Analysis
  • February: Convene 350+ community members to unveil demand study results and discuss opportunities that arise as a result of this information
  • March-December: Conduct research into local food initiatives across US and elsewhere; 
    Develop vision for infrastructure solution to connect supply with demand for local food to capitalize on $800 million potential economic impact for Louisville and increase market opportunities for regional farmers. 
    Conversations with potential project partners: farmers, food businesses, City of Louisville Metro, entrepreneurs, developers, funders
  • October: Hold first group meeting with potential food hub partners at Community Foundation of Louisville
  • December: Individual meetings with potential food hub partners
  • January: Participate in Louisville Barn Raising with Leadership Louisville Center Bingham Fellows – validate food hub concept
  • June – July: Signed Memorandum of Understanding with partner organizations & businesses to-date
  • August: Present West Louisville Food Hub plan to US Conference of Mayors’ Food Policy Council
  • September: Formalize Option Agreement with Louisville Metro on 24-acre parcel of land at 3029 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard
  • October: Harvard Graduate School of Design students in Louisville to study West Louisville Food Hub; they later present Louisville Food Hub project to James Beard Foundation Conference in New York City
  • October: Architecture RFP process
  • November: Bus trip to Haviland, Ohio with West Louisville neighbors to visit anaerobic digester
  • December: Master plan concept design delivered by OMA
  • January-October: Construction Phase I FoodPort
  • March: Anaerobic Digester begins operations
  • November: Phase I FoodPort opens

The project represents a potential $50 million+ investment in West Louisville that will bring 200 permanent jobs, of which nearly 2/3 are new, as well as 275 temporary construction jobs.

The capital sources supporting the West Louisville FoodPort are diverse, and include a combination of local, state and federal grants, local and state incentives, New Market Tax Credits, local and national private and corporate foundation grants, and partner equity. 
Several local foundations supported the project in its 2014 planning phase, including:
  • the James Graham Brown Foundation, 
  • the Community Foundation of Louisville, 
  • the Owsley Brown II Family Foundation, 
  • the Reily/Bingham Family Fund, 
  • the WL Lyons Brown Foundation, 
  • the Augusta Brown Holland Foundation, 
  • and the Brook Brown Barzun Philanthropic Foundation.
In addition, a $25,000 planning grant was awarded by the USDA Local Foods Promotion Program. 
Support will also be sought from:
  • the EPA for brownfield remediation, 
  • the MSD for green infrastructure development, the USDA for project implementation, 
  • the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services for community and economic development funding, and funding from the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation.
Individual businesses locating in the FoodPort may also qualify for state and local support, including the Kentucky Business Investment program and METCO loan program.

The West Louisville FoodPort Community Council is working to create a Community Benefit Agreement in order to inure benefits of the FoodPort to the local community. 

A Community Benefit Agreement is a legally binding, enforceable agreement that calls for a range of benefits to be produced by the development project. It allows community groups to have a voice in shaping a project, to press for community benefits that are tailored to their particular needs, and to enforce developers’ promises

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Kathy McConell
Melbourne , Australia

Kathy McConell

Individual | Food System Specialist

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