LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Its crime rate is high. Many of its buildings and homes are vacant or falling apart. So why is one of the city's most successful entrepreneurs packing up everything and moving to the Portland neighborhood?
“People say you are crazy until all of a sudden they say one day, OK you are not crazy,” Gill Holland, entrepreneur, said.
Portland sits right in the shadows of downtown, so close Holland said he likes to put it this way when shaping his plans for the future, “there's great historic bones here, and we are two miles from 21 c, two miles.”
The maestro of East Market Street purchased the 160 year old Montgomery Street School building in Portland for $400,000 dollars. Its new name is “The Compassion Building”. Holland it is his hub for sparking the rebirth of Portland. It's also his new home.
“I don't live in the neighborhood so I don't want to be seen as the outsider. My film production company, my record label, the music publishing company, we're all leaving the Green Building and coming to the compassion building.”
Vibrant restaurants and sidewalk cafes with people walking everywhere is what you see on East Market Street just a few blocks from the Downtown business district. Holland is the man behind the rebirth of East Market. He and his wife bought empty buildings and gave it the name Nulu. The Green Building he created here became the spark that triggered places like Decca, Why Louisville and the Please and Thank You Cafe.
Holland said he has plans for a $22 million private investment for Portland – the Portland Stroll District.
“The first thing we want is a coffee shop, second thing we want is a burger joint or some kind of cafe, cheap sandwiches,” Holland said.
Artist's Row is another concept which aims to bring back homeowners instead of renters. Holland is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to buy 100 of Portland’s shotgun houses. He said each one would require about an $80,000 investment. He already owns one.
“After hurricane Katrina, Louisville Now has more shotguns than any other city in America. So it’s a distinct housing form that is for me says Louisville,” Holland said.
The East Portland Warehouse District is another area Holland said he hopes to revitalize. Holland said he has the option to buy one of Portland’s historic brick warehouses to open it for stores and restaurants.
Work on the Compassion Building is already underway. A former cafeteria is next on the list.
“We imagine four food trucks sharing this to prepare their food for their outings. This would be their base, so this is a local food hub,” Holland said.
Holland has hired Portland resident Valerie Magnuson of Louisville grows to create a two acre community garden.
The Portland Neighborhood was founded in 1811, 33 years after the city of Louisville.