A local organization wants to purchase the
boarded-up J. Stoddard Johnston Elementary School from the
University of Louisville Foundation and convert it into apartments
for low-income, single parents attending college.
Cathe Dykstra, president and chief executive of Family Scholar
House, said her organization expects to know by next month whether
it will receive tax-credit funding through the Kentucky Housing
Corp. to renovate the building at 2301 Bradley Ave. in the St.
The project, including construction, is expected to cost
$11.3million. That includes renovating the existing structure and
building an addition onto the building to allow for more housing
space, she said.
Family Scholar House, which provides life-skills training and
housing, currently has 637 area families on a waiting list for
housing. Some of the parents it serves attend U of L, while others
are students at other area colleges, Dykstra said.
The organization envisions 57 apartments — more than double the 23
proposed by the university when it began looking for a developer to
convert it into apartments specifically for married U of L students
A previous developer was unable to get financing for the project
during the recent economic crunch, university officials said.
University spokesman Mark Hebert confirmed that Family Scholar House
currently is holding an option to purchase the building, a contract
that's contingent on the organization securing financing. Hebert
said the organization's plan is “a use that would be in line with
The school closed in 1980, and neighbors have waited since then for
something permanent to be done with the building, which was built
about 1900 and is assessed at $220,000, according to Jefferson
County Property Valuation Administrator records.
But St. Joseph's Area Association president Gail Linville said she's
reserving judgment on the latest plan until she sees more details on
how the building would be converted into apartments.
“I can't say good, bad or otherwise about the project until it's
more of a done deal,” said Linville, 62, who's lived her entire life
in the neighborhood.
The school was named for J. Stoddard Johnston, who served as
Kentucky's secretary of state from 1875 to 1879, was later an
associate editor of The Courier-Journal and is buried in Cave Hill
After the school closed, it served for a short time as a day-care
center for the children of U of L staff members and students.
Linville said the building, which has been boarded up for about two
decades, has a strong sentimental value to her.
“I've had at least 63 of my family members go through that school,”
Linville believes student housing is a viable use for the property,
but she would like to see the building remain without being added
Family Scholar House officials met with Linville and other
neighborhood leaders in April to let them know about their initial
plan, and Dykstra anticipates meeting with them again within 45 days
after they secure financing.
Founded as Project Women in 1995, the Scholar House program has
helped find housing and provided life-skills training for hundreds
of single parents and their children. Most parents are single
In 2008, Louisville Scholar House began taking in families at a
56-unit development near U of L's Belknap Campus at Fifth and Lee
streets. Last March, the organization also announced a $10million
plan to build 54 apartments at First and Breckinridge streets called
Downtown Scholar House. Construction on that project is under way
and the first residents are expected to move there in January,
The apartment complexes include subsidized housing, with rent
covered by federal housing vouchers. Tax credits are often sold to
investors for cash to build low-income housing.
Reporter Charlie White can be reached at (502) 582-4653.