The National Baptist Convention of America International, which last year announced it was moving its headquarters from Dallas to Louisville, Ky., has purchased nearby property for what Simmons College of Kentucky President Kevin Cosby says will be the only retreat and conference center in the state run by African-Americans.
Cosby, also pastor of St. Stephen Church in West Louisville, announced the purchase of a 56-acre farm about 11 miles southwest of the inner city congregation July 18 on Twitter.
“I can envision kids from West Louisville coming out and learning more about nature, getting away from that environment,” Cosby said in an interview with Louisville Fox affiliate WDRB-41.
The as-is property listed as an estate sale with an asking price of $599,900 includes three ponds with an 11-room, 3,632 square-foot house and swimming pool. Buildings will be rehabilitated over the coming months.
Cosby said the National Baptist Convention of America Leadership/Conference Center “is just a harbinger of what we can expect in our city as a result of the connection and relationships Simmons College is creating with national organizations.” He called it “an awesome win for the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky.”
Last October Simmons College of Kentucky and the National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc., announced a partnership that included relocating NBCA’s headquarters and 10 staff members from Dallas to Louisville. As part of the partnership, the historically black college would become the convention’s education provider and the convention’s annual meetings will be held in Louisville in 2017 and 2020.
The deal is part of a larger vision by Simmons College to help free people in the inner city from social and economic isolation through a coalition of black and white pastors and churches called Empower West Louisville. Its partners include the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Kentucky.
The idea is to help residents lift their neighborhood out of poverty by building capacity through the opening and supporting of local businesses instead of spending money earned in West Louisville in other, already affluent, parts of the city.
The Louisville Courier-Journal recently carried a story about new restaurants opening in West Louisville in anticipation of jobs that will be created by construction of two multi-million-dollar developments on the drawing board in the next few years. Currently there is about one independent restaurant per neighborhood in West Louisville, and fast food chains with locations in other parts of the city apparently don’t believe they can make a profit there.
Other projects in the community include a new youth football field on South 15th Street between West Kentucky Street and Garland Avenue being built by St. Stephen Church across the street from its family life center and expected to be ready by fall.
The Empower West partnership began with a series of weekly meetings between urban and suburban pastors leading to a faith-based summit of the congregations represented in September 2015.
A similar forum coming up Aug. 2 features three CBF pastors reflecting on “lessons white churches need to learn from the black church.” Panelists include Joe Phelps, pastor of Highland Baptist Church; Erica Whitaker, senior pastor of Beuchel Park Baptist Church; and Chris Caldwell, who retires effective Aug. 6 as pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville to teach full time as chairman of the Simmons College sociology department. Caldwell also is a member of the Baptist News Global board of directors.