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In 2007, Dillard’s closed its department store in the Shively Center, 4420 Dixie Hwy. Later that year, then Mayor Jerry Abramson went to Las Vegas to convince representatives from Kohl’s to take over the vacant space. Two Kohl’s executives secretly flew to Louisville after that meeting and rented a car. They drove up and down Dixie Highway, twice. They saw outdated infrastructure, no sidewalks in areas used by pedestrians, inadequate signage, confusing traffic signals, and a landscape dominated by chain restaurants, car lots and check-cashing stores. Kohl’s response to Abramson came quick and simple: Dixie Highway is not Kohl’s material.
“For them to say our area was not Kohl’s material really stung,” remembers Vince Jarboe, president of the Southwest Dream Team. “A few of us said, ‘We’ve got to change this perception, or whatever it is, that made these people think their store was too good for us.’ That’s when we formed the Southwest Dream Team, which is dedicated to economic development issues in the under served areas of Jefferson County. It’s about showing entrepreneurs and retail companies that they can do business in the South End.”
The South End is made up of dozens of diverse communities. The area begins at the Bullitt County line and extends north all the way into Shively, and east to Preston Highway. It transverses two major traffic corridors, Dixie Highway and New Cut Road-Taylor Boulevard, and at least five different Metro Council districts. This can sometimes lead to internal conflicts because the issues and priorities of one neighborhood might not be the same as the issues and priorities of another. The Southwest Dream Team was formed in 2008 to bridge these fault lines so the South End could speak with one voice.