LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Come 2015, a section of west Louisville's 18th Street corridor will become home to a major retailer.
"We are here today to announce the worst kept secret in the history of Louisville," said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. "After almost two years of negotiations Walmart has agreed to build a Supercenter right here on this very land at 18th and Broadway."
It's a moment Teresa Bridgewaters said she and her husband Frank had been awaiting since purchasing the old Phillip Morris plant property from the city back in 2006.
"This site will become the New Bridge Crossing Towne Center," said Bridgewaters, a co-owner of New Bridge Development. "We always had a vision that we would bring this property back to a vibrant location where people could not only work but also enjoy the convenience of shopping."
In addition to housing an optometrist and pharmacy, the more than 150,000 square foot Walmart is expected to generate a $6 million annual payroll by creating 300 jobs. Some residents, however, worried the jobs would not pay well enough.
"What type of livable wage are you going to offer," questioned Kathleen Parks, a member of Kentucky Alliance Against Race and Political Repression. "We hope it's going to be a livable wage so that people in west Louisville will be able to pay their bills, pay their house notes, buy food, clothe their kids, educate their kids. These are questions that still need to be asked."
"There's going to be some concern about the rate of pay these employees will be paid," said District 3 Councilwoman Mary Woolridge. "I still will be hoping and monitoring how much these employees are going to be paid."
While Woolridge vowed to be a wage watchdog, Walmart leaders announced Monday labor negotiations had not been discussed.
"No, we did not make any of those considerations," said Kevin Thompson, Walmart Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations, when questioned if wages or union negotiations had been discussed,
To facilitate in the hiring of local employees, Mayor Fischer said Walmart would open a job and career center in the neighborhood to accept applications. In return, the city will offer Walmart a performance grant.
"The city is providing a $500,000 grant to Walmart," began Mayor Fischer, "a performance grant which will be paid $100,000 a year for five years if Walmart meets a threshold for local jobs of at least 225 local jobs per year."
According to Mayor Fischer, the city of Louisville is participating in the $25 million Walmart Supercenter project at a rate of about 10 percent, totaling roughly $2.4 million.
"The Bridgewaters obviously invested here when others would not. They purchased this site from the city about a decade ago for a dollar when there was a large number of vacant buildings on the property that needed to be torn down," said Mayor Fischer. "We also worked with [the Bridgewaters] to acquire six additional lots around this property and it was necessary to pull all that land together so that we had adequate land mass under control so Walmart had enough size. The city is spending a total of $1.8 million to buy those six lots, and of that $1.6 million has already been spent last fall."
Despite a lack of firm answers regarding future employee wages, city leaders urged the public support the redevelopment, many citing its future success as a catalyst for further growth and revitalization in west Louisville.
"We can invest our money right here at home," said District 4 Councilman David Tandy.
"At more than $25 million for the Supercenter, this will be the largest capital project in west Louisville in about a decade." said Mayor Fischer. "It's about creating a new node of activity right here at 18th and Broadway."
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