Bell hopes to revive Kenton St. area with homes, apartments

Desmond Bell and his wife, Rozalind Bell, visit the site of the 22-unit Bell Vue Heights development Bell is putting together to rehabilitate the aging African American neighborhood along Kenton Street and Greenwood Alley.

Desmond Bell is wasting no time in rehabilitating a once-thriving African American community between Kenton Street and Greenwood Alley in Bowling Green.

Now that the 1.3686-acre parcel has been approved for a rezoning by the Bowling Green City Commission, Bell is moving forward with his plan to transform the property that had fallen into disrepair and was nearly turned into a business district last year.

Bell’s Bell Vue Properties LLC was successful in getting the property rezoned from two-family residential and general business to planned unit development. Now his plan to develop the property into a 22-unit residential area that includes apartments and houses is taking shape.

“This has been about a six-month process,” Bell said. “I’ll be glad to get started. We’ll start right after Christmas.”

The development plan encompasses these addresses: 1023, 1027, 1031 and 1033 Greenwood Alley and 1024, 1028, 1032, 1036 and 1038 Kenton St.

Bell said his plan is to rehabilitate seven existing houses on the property, demolish one and rebuild it, construct one new house and build 13 total apartments.

The neighborhood for decades was a tight-knit African American community, but the houses had deteriorated over the years.

Chris Robertson of CSR BG Investments applied in September 2019 to rezone the property from residential to general business and planned to develop two contractor garages and office space on the property.

That plan won unanimous approval from the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County, but it was opposed by current and former residents in the area and was voted down 3-2 by the city commission on first reading before garnering a 2-1 majority in favor on second and final reading Nov. 19, 2019.

Two commissioners who voted against the rezoning on first reading were not able to vote on the binding resolution.

That approval by the city commission prompted an appeal to Warren Circuit Court that was initiated by longtime Kenton Street resident Felecia Bland.

That appeal has since been dismissed, with Bell stepping in to purchase the original 1.114 acres from Robertson plus the house at 1038 Kenton St. that Bell has already renovated and rented out.

Bland believes Bell’s plan is the right medicine for the ailing neighborhood.

“We’re ecstatic,” Bland said. “We wanted to see it stay as a neighborhood and provide affordable housing. We were definitely opposed to it (the general business rezoning), and that’s why we brought the appeal.

“When Bell came with his plan, we saw the potential. He’s going to breathe life back into that neighborhood.”

Bell has already started work on a project he’s calling Bell Vue Heights. He is renovating the existing houses – each of which is about 1,500 square feet – and will then move on to building the two new houses, seven three-bedroom apartments and six two-bedroom apartments.

“We’ll work on renovating two houses at a time,” Bell said, “then we will start looking at renting those out. Some will need major work and some less.”

All 22 housing units will be rentals, Bell said, with monthly payments ranging from $700 to $900.

He’s anxious to rehabilitate a neighborhood that has a rich history, with most of the houses dating back to the early- or mid-20th century.

“I’ve known about that neighborhood, but I didn’t know a lot of the history until I spoke to some of the residents,” said Bell, who said Hancock Bank stepped up with the necessary financing. “I’m excited about the project. I want to clean up that area.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

(6) comments

Enough Already

Looks like another attempt to keep white people out. Honestly, a "black neighborhood"? How racist can you get? Do white people have to start blockbusting or will you let whites buy without black hate and intimidation?

EngagedCitizen

This is a historically black neighborhood that has welcomed and continues to be home to people of all races since Bowling Green was desegregated.

Absolutely Positively

It's as if we just decided one morning that this land was sacred once a white guy planned on doing something worthwhile with it.

EngagedCitizen

This area has been a neighborhood for nearly a century. It was the plan to demolish the homes and replace it with a glorified junkyard in the middle, not the person doing it that mattered. Unless of course you are assuming that the developer is white by default. There's nothing in here about his race.

EngagedCitizen

Very glad for this outcome. Mr. Bell is to be commended for committing to preserve the structures that can be preserved, while restoring and improving the character of the neighborhood. There are so many stories on these blocks that will now live on in future generations. At a time when affordable housing is scarcer than ever and the sense of neighborhood community is a rarity, we need many more examples like him.

disgusted!

Glad for Bell and his work. Ann Townsend who has authored many books about black communities in Bowling Green such as Growing Up Black in Bowling Green has nearly completed her newest on the Evolution and Devolution of Kenton Street and Greenwood Alley. Should be am interesting read.

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