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'Our Place' to bring new life to Ben Washer Park, Limerick Neighborhood

How one group is turning an abandoned building into a gathering place, with healthy food options, African Heritage, and resources for youth in Louisville.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Music blared from the speakers at 533 West Kentucky Street as neighbors and community leaders danced. Some held the tempo in their rhythm, others held plates of rice and vegetables. Then, they held shovels

"5, 4, 3, 2, 1," Stacy Bailey-Ndiaye yelled out. "Let's break some dirt."

Cheers and upturned ground mark eight years of work.

"This neighborhood needs a gathering place,"  Bailey-Ndiaye  told WHAS11 News on Tuesday. "And this is it." 

Our Place at Ben Washer Park will transform a deteriorating 1895 building in the Limerick neighborhood into a unique community gathering place. It will center around youth social entrepreneurship, cultural exploration, intergenerational relationships, and sustainable living.

The building will also establish a global headquarters for Bridge Kids International (BKI).

Louisville Metro is leasing the space to BKI for just a dollar a year. And, the least could last decades. "We start out with ten [years] and then we get to add more so about twenty years or more," Bailey-Ndiaye said.

Phase 1 of the renovation includes the ground floor that will house social enterprises led by young adults: Our Place Café, featuring Nice Cream, a liquid nitrogen ice cream business, and the Our Place Discovery Shop. 

"It is insurmountable, words can't even describe," Nice Cream's Gerald Henry Smith said.

He helped begin BKI when it started in Louisville ten years ago. He's helped it grow and make an impact, now he's helping in a new way. "The ability and opportunity to start my business here in Louisville Kentucky with this organization is a dream come true," Smith said.

The café and Nice Cream will both help to financially support BKI in addition to housing family cooking programs and community gatherings.

At the groundbreaking on Tuesday, joy and pride were oozing from the smiles behind the shovels. 

Several members of BKI wore clothes made from the same cloth: a pattern of interwoven orange and green designs.

Credit: Alyssa Newton WHAS11

"We just got back from a trip to Ghana and Senegal and we got this fabric," Bailey-Ndiaye said. They wanted something unique to their cause to act as a sort of uniform.

The group made its trip to Africa to meet with BKI groups from all across the world. 

Though based in Louisville, BKI is a global non-profit organization, using the power of African heritage culture to support the well-being of young people. Their initiatives include the annual African Heritage Festival, 7 Generations African Heritage Culture Camp, The Kizazi Fund, Brown Girls Living Out Loud, We Made It/Sistas with Power Tools, and Louisville Rites of Passage. 

With this new development at Ben Washer Park, Bailey-Ndiaye said, "we finally have a home." 

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

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