LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Groundbreaking for Passport Health's new headquarters at Broadway and 18th Street could spark new growth in an area that badly needs it.
Since Philip Morris closed its factory at the site in 2000, times have been tough for the California neighborhood. For nearly 20 years, the vacant field has been a blight on the community.
Now the blight is becoming a bloom. Passport broke ground Wednesday on its new 340,000-square-foot, four-story, $100 million headquarters.
“If you work hard, you get a break every once in awhile,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said during Wednesday's ceremony. “And our community has worked hard to get this break.”
It is a break that could help fix this area's broken economy, sparking new business and new jobs.
Passport CEO Mark Carter said he is not a savior but a partner.
“We want to be good neighbors, and we want to help the leaders make a difference in lifting it,” he said.
Longtime activist Rev. Charles Elliott led a victory march onto the property. He has seen lots of potential projects come and go, including the failed plan to build a Walmart on the site. Meanwhile, the neighborhood has decayed.
“A lot of crime and what-not has been committed in this area," Elliott said. "With this, it will bring some light."
Passport is a non-profit that administers Medicaid benefits. Carter said its goal is to help improve more than west Louisville's economic health.
“There are social issues that lead to poor health: educational attainment, jobs, employment, job training," Carter said. "We want to partner with other community organizations."
With a new YMCA going up next door, the corner of 18th Street and Broadway could become a new hub of activity in Louisville.
“In terms of serving large numbers of people, increasing access to services like the Y, Passport and other businesses, the potential is almost unending,” said Steve Tarver, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Louisville.
Construction of the Passport facility officially begins this summer and is set to be finished in 2020.
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