Ali home restoration ‘wonderful’ for West End

Major restoration, much of it being done by a group that puts former convicts and addicts to work, is well underway on the boyhood home of Muhammad Ali in the 3300 block of Grand Avenue in western Louisville.

“Stage One is to get the house rehabbed, safe and secure,” said George Bochetto, the Philadelphia lawyer and former Pennsylvania boxing commissioner who is a co-owner of the Grand Avenue property with Las Vegas investor Jared Weiss.

Bochetto, who is paying for the restoration and related work, said he hopes to have the makeover of the small, one-story, wood-frame house largely completed by Sept. 19, when the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville has scheduled a humanitarian awards ceremony that the three-time Louisville boxing heavyweight champion may attend. So far work has included major foundation and roof repairs, and wholesale interior work, including some new walls.

The owners have purchased a second, adjacent parcel at 3300 Grand, where they plan to develop some parking and a welcome center. Bochetto said that phase should be done by next fall.

The third phase, he said, with the timing uncertain, is to figure out operational details, such as who will manage the site — no organization has apparently stepped forward offering to operate it at this point — and any admission charges.  Bochetto said another nearby tract mayhave to be purchased to provide space for additional parking.

Along the way, Bochetto said he intends to find furniture from primarily the 1950s to put in the house, giving it a look similar to when a young Cassius Clay was growing up there.

Bochetto said he and his son, Evan, who works in the film industry, are developing a 12-minute documentary targeted for visitors to the boyhood home.  “It’s about what the neighborhood was like when (Ali) was a youngster.  We have some eyewitness accounts,” the lawyer said.

Much of the restoration, which began in earnest just last month, is being done by a half-dozen or so men employed by the group Jesus and a Job, founded by the Rev. Charles Elliott of King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church.   Its goal is to put to work former inmates and addicts, said Thomas Elliott, a cousin of the pastor and the general contractor on the Ali project.

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