Sunday, March 29, 2009

To Preserve is to Sustain - Let’s get Green together

Yes, it is better to reuse than to toss out. That applies to just about everything, except maybe old toothbrushes.

It is most applicable to our building stock. To emphasize this point, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is walking the walk and talking the talk. The Trust has launched a Sustainability Program. If you care about the environment and our climate problems, the Trust website should be a regular stop for you. You should also consider giving them some of your money. They do and have always done great work.
The Trust has recently launched Preservation Green Lab, headquartered in Seattle. Here’s an excerpt from the Trust website:

As a key component of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Sustainability Program, the Preservation Green Lab will focus on these three goals:

Good Policy, Green Results: The greenest building is often the one that is already built, which is precisely why the Preservation Green Lab will work in various cities and states to develop and implement policies that support green retrofits and adaptive reuse, as well as reinvestment in existing communities.

Greening by Example: To demonstrate that older and historic buildings can, in fact, be retrofitted to achieve high levels of energy efficiency, the Preservation Green Lab will launch a number of green retrofit projects in pilot cities across the country.

The Go-To for Going Green: The Preservation Green Lab will lead the conversation on best practices and model policies for greening our country's prized older and historic buildings, functioning as the go-to resource for those navigating the intersection of historic preservation and sustainability.

We just might have to coordinate a visit from these folks. Or maybe we need our own New Albany Green Lab?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Riverfront of Today and Yesterday

I know the New Albany riverfront as a place where joggers roam, skateboarders litter and an amphitheatre sits silently. I also know it had a life before the flood wall severed it from the day to day life of New Albany. New Albany was a river town. And nobody can take us back to that time and set the scene of river town life like Mark Twain.

From Life on the Mississippi, Chapter 6, page 30-31

“After all these years I can picture that old time to myself now, just as it was then; the white town was drowsing in the sunshine of a summer’s morning; the streets empty, or pretty nearly so; one or two clerks sitting in front of the Water Street stores, with their split-bottomed chairs tilted back against the wall, chins on breast, hats slouched over their faces, asleep-with shingle shavings enough around to show what broke them down; a sow and a litter of pigs loafing along the sidewalk, doing a good business in watermelon rinds and seeds; two or three lonely little freight piles scattered about the levee; a pile of skids on the slope of the stone-paved wharf, and the fragrant town drunkard asleep in the shadow of them; two or three wood flats at the head of the wharf, but nobody to listen to the peaceful lapping of the wavelets against them…"
He wasn’t writing about New Albany, but he could have been. The following image, provided by the Floyd County Historical Society, is an appropriate companion to the marvelously crafted description of Mr. Twain.
You’d probably think that physical evidence of that time in New Albany would be long gone. You’d be wrong. Fellow shutterbug Stephen Pacciano snapped the below images during a recent drought. The first is of our own stone-paved wharf and the second of a still intact mooring ring awaiting the next steamboat to tie off.

Thank you Stephen. I will look at the riverfront with a new appreciation thanks to these material connections with the past.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

This Place Matters – Preservation Month May 2009

Here's a preview of events coming in May. More details will follow here and at Develop New Albany. We've also got a return of our popular "Shotgun" home event planned for June.

The theme this year is This Place Matters. And it really does matter. See you in May.
May 5
Preservation Forum - “Going Green”. Forum presenter Steve Wiser (AIA) - Author and Architect.

May 9
Downtown event: “Gym, Gems & Juice – A Historic Downtown Walking Tour”

May 12
House Histories Workshop

May 19
Window Restoration Workshop

May 20
Facelift Awards Presentation

May 26
Floyd County Historical Society, “Cardinal Joseph Ritter, A 20th Century Religious Leader.”

May 30
Scribner House Open House & Walking Tour of Historic Mansion Row

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Making the point – Of Adaptive Reuse, Beer and Progress

It goes without saying that I’m tickled pink that downtown New Albany is the new home of the New Albanian Brewing Company Bank Street Brewhouse. The Brewhouse will bring more people downtown. Some will figure out they can avoid the drive to get here by moving here. It will happen. Beer, good beer, is a big reason I moved to New Albany 7 years ago. Trust me, I’m not the only one who has the same appreciation.

This addition to our downtown contributes to a recent winning streak that includes a downtown YMCA, rehabilitation of the Whitehouse, an impressive reuse of a bank building by Schad & Palmer at 223 East Spring, the pending opening of the River City Winery, the arrival of Toast on Market and more. I don’t have access to balance sheets for these projects, but we’re talking millions of dollars of investment.

While some bemoan the lack of revitalization downtown, I’m reminded of a saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees. It’s quite possible that we’ve been wishing for revitalization for so long that we’re not able to see it as it occurs.

And now for the preservationist take on the Brewhouse. This unassuming building where discount bread was once made is flanked by two parking lots. It was a strong candidate for demolition, adding to our supply of ample parking.

The building is not historic. It is not protected by a local historic district. It is admittedly an “ugly duckling” of a building. But thankfully in this case, a precious few had the vision and the imagination to look beyond the ugliness. Reuse was the first option. The streetscape is now maintained and enhanced. Valuable resources have been reused instead of being sent to a landfill. Vibrancy has been added to our downtown.

This is precisely the creativity and imagination we need for our building stock downtown. And while I’m thankful for the beer, I’m much more thankful for the example this sets for the future developments that will be spurred as a result of this project.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Newport Forum this Tuesday: It's good to learn from others, right?

It was several weeks ago when a letter to the CJ about the success of Newport, KY caught my attention. After a couple phone calls and emails, we found a good spokesperson (Robert Yoder) that could come and share the story of Newport with us.

It promises to be time well spent learning how another river community has turned itself around. We’ll hear the depths that Newport had sunk to and then learn how decades of work, leadership and vision have made it a tourist destination and a community with a strong housing market.

Come on by the YMCA (corner of State & Main) Tuesday evening at 7:00pm for this important educational lecture and public forum. Visit the Develop New Albany website for more information on this and other upcoming events downtown.

And sign up for the e-news group so you don’t have to learn about this stuff by reading my blog.