Clarksdale Housing Complex

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The Clarksdale Housing Complex was a housing project located in Louisville, Kentucky directly east of downtown in the Phoenix Hill neighborhood.

History[edit]

The Clarksdale Housing Complex was a public housing project built in 1939. Clarksdale was occupied from 1939 - late 2004. It was the first public housing complex built in the city and up until its demolition, completed in 2005, it was the largest public housing project in the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky. It consisted of 58 two and three-story buildings. Like most public housing complexes, Clarksdale was initially built to support veterans and their families after World War II. Clarksdale was originally built for and occupied by whites tenants, while Beecher Terrace, built several years afterward, was designed for blacks. However, entering into the mid 1960s Clarksdale's population slowly became predominantly black around the same time white flight began in the West End of Louisville. Until its demise, Clarksdale was one of many developments overseen by the Louisville Metro Housing Authority which primarily served as housing for single-family units with low income.

Clarksdale's location was bounded by Jefferson Street to the North, Jackson Street on the West, Muhammad Ali Boulevard to the South, and Shelby Street to the East. It was located adjacent to its sister complex Dosker Manor, which initially served as a complex designed for the elderly and is still standing today. St. Boniface's Catholic Church which still stands today was positioned within the boundaries of the complex on E. Liberty St. Both Clarksdale, and Dosker Manor's location, also mark the eastern boundary of the downtown into what is known as the Phoenix Hill neighborhood of Louisville. The northern end of Phoenix Hill especially along East Market and Jefferson Street's has been gentrified into what developers have deemed as "NuLu"(short for New Louisville), although the correct name for the area geographically is Phoenix Hill.

As with most housing projects throughout the country, Clarksdale's age and maintenance were insufficient for such a large complex designed for single-family and low income households. Clarksdale in its prime, was one of the most notorious and crime-ridden housing projects within the city with high drug, murder, and gang activity prevalent

Redevelopment[edit]

The 65-year-old complex was completely demolished in 2005, as part of the city's plan to redevelop housing in the downtown area due to Louisville's rapid economic growth within the Downtown business district. The Clarksdale complex was the second public housing site in Louisville to undergo this gentrification process, after the Cotter/Lang Homes revitalization into what is now known as The Villages of Park Duvalle. This redevelopment plan was part of the Hope VI program responsible for the same revitalization of Chicago's Plan for Transformation with the demolition of housing projects and other major cities throughout the United States. East Louisville Park and two local liquor/grocery stores were also demolished in the process.

Tenants from Clarksdale were forced to relocate to other areas and other housing projects throughout the city, which often brought tension and issues with original residents from those particular areas. The newly redeveloped area which is the prior site of Clarksdale is now known as Liberty Green, named after Liberty Street, which ran directly through the middle of the complex West to East. The name Liberty Green also stems from the area in the late 19th century, being rich with green fields. Liberty Green is currently under construction and nearing completion. It is already available for tenants which now consist of mixed-income housing and condos.

Prior to the demolition, many tenants argued that due to Clarksdale's proximity to Downtown Louisville, that location played the major part of the revitalization more so than crime which was talked of as one of the main reasons for the demolition proposal. Many tenants who opposed the demolition, have argued that with the growth and development of newly Downtown attractions such as new businesses, luxury apartments, a new sporting arena, and Waterfront Park; that having Clarksdale in the area would cause problems with property and retail value, therefore raising questions on the demolition proposal as a whole. The area has since been highly gentrified. Ironically, since the demise of Clarksdale and other housing projects in the city, Louisville's crime rate has now risen in other parts of the city particularly the West End which was already high in crime, but also into areas of the city in which crime was almost non existent before such as certain areas in the South End.

Today, local TV-repair shop and family owned business, Clarksdale TV, located on nearby Shelby Street and Broadway is the only remnants bearing the Clarksdale name within the city of Louisville.