The proposed West Broadway YMCA will finally become a reality. | Courtesy of the YMCA of Greater Louisville

The city approved plans for a new YMCA at 1700 W. Broadway about 20 months ago. Around that same time, YMCA of Greater Louisville CEO Steve Tarver said he was optimistic funding would fall into place to pay for the $28 million multi-use center despite the fact that Kentucky received no New Market Tax Credits.

Thursday afternoon, Tarver stood on the 11.5-acre empty lot surrounded by politicians, business leaders, YMCA employees and neighborhood residents to announce that all the pieces finally had come together, and on March 27, the YMCA of Greater Louisville’s Board of Directors had given the project a final go-ahead.

“It’s been a tough journey, and there were opportunities to abandon the project, but it’s the vision behind this that has kept the project alive over these 10 years,” he said. “It’s a vision that is rooted in health equity and collaboration that has kept the project alive.”

Because Kentucky hasn’t received any New Market Tax Credits in three years, the YMCA of Greater Louisville had to look to out-of-state institutions for financing. It ended up securing the $28 million in federal New Market Tax Credits from five out-of-state entities.

The organization will have to repay the money over a seven-year period. Tarver said fundraising dollars and revenues from leasing space at the West Broadway YMCA to various partners will help cover the repayment.

Louisville-based Republic Bank also has committed an undisclosed amount of funds to the YMCA of Greater Louisville for naming rights on the new facility. It will be known as the Republic Bank Foundation YMCA.

“There is a time when people need to step up and make things happen. This is a project Republic Bank is committed to making happen,” said Steve Trager, the bank’s CEO.

The YMCA of Greater Louisville expects to break ground on the new facility before the end of this year.

The YMCA’s many partners

The Republic Bank Foundation YMCA will be much more than a typical YMCA.

It will include traditional features such as a pool, gymnasium, fitness center, daycare, workout classes and other various YMCA activities, but the nonprofit also has partnered with Republic Bank and health care-focused businesses to offer members more.

Republic Bank will lease 2,700 square feet in the building where it will offer traditional banking services as well as financial education seminars.

ProRehab Physical Therapy, which opened its first physical therapy office in West Louisville last year, also has come on as a partner. It will run a clinic out of the Republic Bank Foundation YMCA as well.

“We have always had the mission and belief that we will go where others won’t go,” said ProRehab CEO and president Larry Benz, adding that people who live in impoverished neighborhoods struggle more with health. “We’re going to bring the best to the west.”

In addition to ProRehab, Norton Healthcare will occupy 6,000 square feet and operate a pediatric and family clinic out the YMCA, with two primary care physicians to start, and nonprofit mental health organization Family & Children’s Place will offer free counseling and therapy for victims of abuse and violence.

“How wonderful is it that a place where cigarettes used to be made is now the address that is a crossroads to health and wellness,” said Russell Cox, president and CEO of Norton Healthcare, referring to the site’s former tenant Philip Morris. “We recognize today that we take a giant step forward in beginning to meet the needs of West Louisville.”

There’s only one primary care physician to every 2,000 people who live in West Louisville, Cox said, calling it unacceptable.

“That has to improve, and today we start that improvement,” he said.

Louisville-based firm Luckett & Farley designed the new YMCA. The facility will have 170 on-site parking spaces and is located on a main bus line that runs from downtown to Dixie Highway.

Anywhere from 16,000 to 20,000 people are expected to visit the Republic Bank Foundation YMCA each year.

“To a lot of the areas of our community, this will be seen as just another YMCA,” said U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth. “To this neighborhood, it is much more than a YMCA. First of all, it is a statement of confidence in West Louisville. Secondly, this will be a community center. This will be much more than a place to exercise.”

A renewed hope for 1800 W. Broadway

The West Broadway YMCA is the last remaining of three multimillion-dollar projects planned in West Louisville. All three were at some point heralded as game-changers for the city’s struggling West End.

The $30 million Walmart will no longer be built across the street at 1800 W. Broadway after the company pulled out following a legal battle, and now, the couple that owns the land, Frank and Teresa Bridgewaters, may lose the property after MainSource Bank filed a lawsuit claiming the couple owes more than $1.7 million.

And after the anchor tenant backed away from the West Louisville FoodPort project at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, plans to redevelop the 24-acre vacant site fell apart. Now, the city is seeking proposals from developers to restart the revitalization of that property.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer told reporters that he believes the YMCA development will spur some other business or entity to develop the space at 1800 W. Broadway as well as other nearby areas.

“This will be a catalyst for the entire West Louisville,” he said, “so you’ll see more and more people come; you’ll see more retail come because people are going to be moving about in this area. It’s a great development for us.”

He added that there is “a lot of interest at 18th and Broadway” right now. Fischer also pointed to other projects, including the renovation of Beecher Terrace and the Cedar Street housing development as signs of positive change in West Louisville that will lead to other investments.