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'We're trying to bring it back to what it was'; Louisville developer wants to help revitalize Portland neighborhood

The 25-room hotel would be the only hotel west of Ninth Street in Louisville. It's one of many Portland neighborhood projects from a local developer.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Right now, 1624 Lytle Street is filled with grass, overgrown foliage and a staircase that leads to nowhere. 

If developer Gill Holland's goal comes to life, the lot will be home to a hotel. It would be the only hotel west of ninth.

The 25-room building will be named Devonian Motel, after the nearby fossil bed beneath the Falls of the Ohio River.

While Holland is still looking for partners to take on the project, it's one part of his larger footprint in the Portland neighborhood.

 Less than a block away, music filled Portal at Fifteen Twelve. Some local bands and The Hooten Hallers performed at the new venue Wednesday night as part of a national tour. 

The Fifteen Twelve building as a whole is more a melody than a single note. 

Walking through the building, co-owner Brad White pointed to one space saying, "We have a nail salon that does lashes." 

He pointed to another and said, "and then the cafe will go right over there." 

Soon, there will be a total of 26 businesses in the space.

"We have been really busy, the crowd has been really slow," White said.

As businesses like this open in Portland, they're met with stories of homicides and crime. Five days ago on Aug. 19, a man was shot and killed at Bank Street and North 22nd Street.

But, White said the larger issue comes when customers write off anything west of ninth. 

"For some reason, Portland is on the other side of town in everyone's mind even though Portland is only 6 minutes from Zorn Avenue on the other side of town," he said.

It's that prime location and Portland's rich history that garnered the attention of Holland. 

He helped establish the NuLu neighborhood and now hopes to revitalize Portland by working with people who live there to fill the need. 

Evie O'Connell has lived in Portland all her life; in that time she's learned to be skeptical of new developers. However, she said she appreciates Holland's contributions. 

"I believe that Gill tried to work with the community and wanted the best for the neighborhood," she said. "As for other developers, I hope that they will also work with the community to rebuild our great neighborhood."

WHAS11 spoke with Holland at a construction zone on Portland and 25th. Soon, the space will be offices and "attainable" apartments. 

"It's Portland, it's got a great history," he said. "We're trying to bring it back to what it was. It was a highly walkable, dense, working-class neighborhood." 

Instead of a 10-year plan, Holland has a 148-year plan. He said that the timeline accounts for the slow growth it will take to refill vacant spaces in Louisville.

The latest project, a hotel, would be a modern first in the area, and Holland describes it as a clear answer.

"Just like any other area, the people who live here have guests coming to visit and we need a hotel in the area," he said.

► Contact reporter Tom Lally at TLally@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

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