John Guthrie: Habitat for Humanity HQ has invested more than $2 million to bring lasting change to Portland


Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville was one of the 10 largest home builders in our community in 2011, according to Business First’s lastest list.

That becomes even more impressive when you consider that the person power to build these homes was done by an all-volunteer workforce.

Over the past 25 years 366 homes have been built or rehabbed in Louisville.

Eighty of those 366 homes can be found in the Portland neighborhood, northwest of downtown.


According to Habitat Executive Director Rob Locke, this represents an investment of more than $4 million in housing for partner families and the neighborhood.

In 2011 Habitat took its investment in Portland one big step further, purchasing a building and moving its entire operation to the neighborhood.

Habitat renovated the old Tip Top Bakery building at 1620 Bank Street, making a direct investment of more than $2 million.

The organization took an abandoned and dilapidated building, and made it into a neighborhood asset.

“In order for any neighborhood to transform, mixed use is key,” states Jane White, director of development at Habitat. “We know housing is a critical piece, but it also takes the investment of business to make lasting change. We are thrilled with the conversion of the building and believe its impact will be significant in neighborhood development.”

Habitat’s Construction Center had been a staple at the corner of 17th and Rowan Streets for years. One day in late 2010 the owner of the Tip-Top Bakery building, located just north of the construction center walked in the door and asked if Habitat might be interested in the building.

Habitat had spent more than two years looking for the right property to locate its construction center, family services and administrative offices, and establish a ReStore distribution center to service multiple retail locations. None of the dozen or so locations seriously considered were the right fit. This opportunity quite literally walked in off the street.

The creative reuse of the building serves all the needs of Habitat; construction, family services, administrative offices and a new ReStore distribution center, and allows for future expansion. Moving its entire operation to Portland represents a concrete and direct commitment to a neighborhood in need of investors.

The building is but one part of a larger vision for Habitat to increase the number of families it serves each year and provide more partner families with the chance to become homeowners. Habitat’s goal is to double the number of families it serves each year by 2019.

This goal required new space. However, to meet the goal will require more house sponsors, more construction leaders, more volunteers, and more earned revenue to sustain the growth and maintain a business model that works.

Habitat is well on its way.

You can help by becoming a volunteer or donor here.

Full disclosure: Our firm, Ashley|Rountree and Associates consulted with Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville on its capital campaign.

About the author: John J. Guthrie is a consultant working with local nonprofits on fundraising, board development, capital campaigns, and the business of nonprofit organizations for the firm Ashley|Rountree and Associates in Louisville. He is also an advocate for the arts and getting creative about what role arts, artists and economic development can play together in revitalizing Louisville neighborhoods.