The rise of urban mixed-use food hubs?

You’d be forgiven for mistaking the West Louisville FoodPort project for a theme park. Featuring carnivalesque roofs, a zigzag floor plan, and a bright red ball mounted in a central plaza, the latest mock-ups for the site are the stuff of childhood fantasy—not your typical public-private partnership.

The 24-acre complex, expected to break ground this fall, is the newest and most ambitious variation on a growing nationwide trend: the regional food hub.

The USDA defines a “food hub” as a business or organization that manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of locally sourced food products.

Manufacturers abandoned West Louisville, once the center of the city, after the flood, and the scars of disinvestment are still visible to this day.

The median household salary there is $22,578, less than half that for Louisville as a whole ($46,701), and its unemployment rate is 23.6 percent, nearly four times greater than Louisville’s (6.6 percent).

Revitalizing this economically depressed area is a central mission of the FoodPort.

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