LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS) -- A vacant lot sits at the corner of 17th and Broadway filled with gravel and some brick. But Thursday morning, a small mound of dirt with shovels and hard hats were placed in the lot, signifying the big changes ahead.
"We're seeing a renaissance now in our whole city for that matter, but especially here in West Louisville that we have not seen in quite some time," Mayor Greg Fischer, D.-Louisville, said.
"There are no words for that," Nichole Marshall, the principal of Roosevelt-Perry Elementary School, said. "There are happy tears, excitement, joy."
The lot is the future site of the Republic Bank Foundation YMCA, a 77,500-square foot facility aimed at promoting health and wellness in the West End, a project almost a decade in the making.
"We care about what happens in this community," Steve Trager, the president of the Republic Bank Foundation, one of the project's partners, said. "We're going to continue to care about what happens in this community."
"They always see these signs posted - 'Future Site of -,' 'Future Site of -,'" Marshall said of her students. "Sometimes in their lifetime, they don't see it happen or it may fall through, but this is happening and they get to see it from the beginning."
The new YMCA is also partnering with Roosevelt-Perry and Wheatley Elementary Schools. While the specifics about the partnership have not been finalized, officials said it will give students learning opportunities and a chance to grow in a safe and nurturing environment.
"There are different people," Andrew Roblero, a fifth-grader at Roosevelt-Perry said. "There are lots of interests they have, lots of interests you have. I mean, it's just a nice community."
"They're able to see what the community can do for them in a positive way," Marshall said.
The YMCA is a $28 million investment in the West End, part of the $700 million that has been invested into the community that has in the past felt overlooked.
"The geographical boundaries of West Louisville - left out, ignored, forgotten and disenfranchised," Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith, D.-District 4, said. "And I said, 'Lord have mercy!' Today is a new day because we are no longer those things."
The new facility will also include several partner tenants, including Norton's Healthcare, Republic Bank & Trust, ProRehab Physical Therapy and Family & Children's Place. The project is expected to be completed in mid-2019 and will attract an estimated 200,000 visitors a year.