LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A portion West Muhammad Ali Boulevard has been designated an Arts and Cultural District. It is first step of a plan to restore the Russell neighborhood into the economic engine it once was.

At one time, Walnut Street, which is now Muhammad Ali Boulevard, was the center of African American culture and economy in Louisville.

That changed in the 60s and 70s when urban renewal put a wrecking ball to black businesses, restaurants and clubs,

“It really had a negative effect on the overall economy, but specifically the African American economy,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

Now, there's an effort to recapture some of that heritage.

Muhammad Ali Boulevard, from 6th to 21st Streets is now an Arts and Cultural District. It is designed to attract new businesses, entrepreneurs and residents to an area that badly needs them.

“That's why the old Walnut Street was vibrant, because we were in walking distance to downtown. So, it's time to really get back to that economic vibrancy. That is what this plan really speaks to,” said Kevin Fields, CEO of the non-profit Louisville Central Community Center, or LC3.

The plan calls for the Russell-based LC3 to help develop the new district.

“The types of businesses could range from boutiques, to restaurants, to major anchor tenants,” Fields told WDRB News.

The effort is fueled, in part, by a $30 million federal grant to tear down and redevelop the Beecher Terrace Housing Project.

Supporters say it's important for people who live in Russell have a say in that development.

“So that this community will have everything it needs, and money can rotate back into creating wealth in this community,” said Rev. David Snardon of Concerned Pastors of Russell.

Supporters hope the Arts and Cultural District will help tear down the 9th Street wall that separates the growing downtown economy from West Louisville.

“Louisville is fast becoming a national attraction for major events, conventions and what-not, and we believe that West Louisville needs to benefit from that,” Fields said.

LC3 promises its first big announcement soon. As to what that could be, Fields says only to “stay tuned.”

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