Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sharing the Numbers -

It’s time for another update on the numbers for, a website sponsored by Develop New Albany. About 8,000 people per month are looking for their place in history in New Albany. Monthly averages for visits over the last two years are up by 30%:
This graph shows the monthly visits over the last six months. Visits are steady, with anticipated dips during cold weather months:

This currently free service is making a difference. Two homes have been sold as a direct result of the site and there's no doubt it has contributed indirectly to the sale of a dozen others. The number of communities offering this type of website are limited, especially locally. As communities work to attract new residents, there’s no doubt this type of website provides New Albany a competitive advantage.

Volunteers can spend up to five hours per week each on maintenance which includes house research, touring homes, taking photographs, uploading listings to the site and much more. David Barksdale does the house research and Laura Renwick and Judy Martin (both representatives of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana) tour homes and perform maintenance. Thanks guys.
If anyone out there would be interested in helping with the site please email me.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Baptist Tabernacle - Shrader Stables - Opportunities in New Albany

The City of New Albany purchased the Baptist Tabernacle (318 E. Fourth Street, c. 1879) at tax sale last week. Above is a vintage photograph of the building, courtesy of the Floyd County Historical Society. Below is a current photo from the website
I’m pleased to see reported that a committee has been formed quickly to seek reuse options and funding for the rehabilitation. The purchase was an assertive move and one I commend.

On a related topic, a request for proposal (RFP) is on the way for another prominent property owned by the city - the Shrader Stables at 118 W. Main Street (c. 1870). Its location, across the street from the YMCA currently under construction, makes this an interesting property for development.

Below is a rendering completed by the Ball State Universities Center for Historic Preservation. The rendering project was completed as part of a partnership with the city of New Albany and Develop New Albany. Revitalization is an incremental process. The reuse of these structures will contribute to the momentum of the current renaissance underway in New Albany.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Creating Neighborhoods of Hope

It’s a snowy weekend. Other than shoveling the white stuff, and making French toast with all the bread and milk you bought, why not do some reading?

A spirited discussion was sparked by friend Bluegill over at New Albany Confidential this week regarding the true emphasis of strengthening code enforcement efforts. It’s about children and preparing them for life – and that starts with providing them a safe and secure place to live. There’s really nothing else to say about the importance of code enforcement.

As revitalization strategies are defined and put into action, there’ll undoubtedly be attention given to the physical environment we live in. We spend a lot of time focused on the physical environment – housing conditions, cleaning up trash, etc. No less important will be the strategies for the most important resources we have – the people and specifically the children that live here.

I’m excited about the possibility that, while developing neighborhoods of choice, we also create neighborhoods of hope. Places that actually enable people. For me, this means education opportunities. And here are some examples of how this could be made a reality.

The Kalamazoo Promise. “The Kalamazoo Promise is a scholarship offered to every Kalamazoo Public School student. The Kalamazoo Promise is much more than a scholarship program; it is a catalyst to making the Greater Kalamazoo Community an even greater community.”

Just imagine what a program like this would do for our community.

Schools and Neighborhood Revitalization: An Invitation to New Thinking
By Michael Schubert (

“The path that connects schools and neighborhood revitalization is not as well traveled as it could be. As community development has become more sophisticated and project-driven, the idea of strengthening and connecting to local institutions has sometimes been moved back in importance – relegated to the “soft” side of the work. But if neighborhoods are going to succeed and be competitive as places, schools have to be part of the mix.”

Please read this short essay by revitalization professional Michael Schubert. It is full of realistic strategies that would link schools and neighborhood revitalization efforts.

And lastly is this article from the Courier Journal yesterday. It’s an interview with Cathe Dykstra, Executive Director of Project Women. I was not familiar with the group before reading this article. This is an amazing organization that I hope to learn more about. They had me after I read the headline of the article – “Cathe Dykstra says one way to lift up children is to get their mothers back into school”.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Making it Harder on the Neighborhood Killers - Changes to Indiana Code from 2006

In March 2006, Public Law No. 169-2006 (HEA 1102) was signed into law. It amended the Unsafe Building Law (Indiana Code 36-7-9), property tax collection and enforcement, and redevelopment law. In the broadest of overviews, “it improves the ability of county executives and redevelopment commissions to effectively deal with abandoned properties in their jurisdictions.”

A technical guide is available that introduces and summarizes the statutory changes. It’s a rather dry read but it’s certainly worth the effort if you are involved with a community organization in New Albany, Floyd County or in any county in Indiana.

As described on page 6 of the guide, some of the new legal tools are:
Increase the carrying cost of abandoned and vacant properties – increasing civil penalties allowed and allowing for performance bonds to be issued to bring a property into compliance.

Improving the efficiency of the tax sale process – shortening the tax sale process and if not sold, transferring properties to the county executive.

Expanding the range of property redevelopment options – allowing the creation of Land Banks and increasing disposition options.

My favorite new legal tool is the exclusion of any Unsafe Building Law violators from participating in tax sales. That’s a pesky little change that, if enforced, would certainly prohibit a habitual devaluator of our neighborhoods from spreading their cancer further.

I have a couple hard copies of the guide and will forward to anyone interested.