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.


bluegill said...

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.

It's pretty amazing that some are still claiming that nothing is working. If we'd have done a resident satisfaction survey a few years ago (hint, hint) and then did another to compare results to now, my answers would have changed substantially to be more positive.

dan chandler said...

thanks for the reminder of just how bad the day old bread store looked less than a year ago.

it had been a most uninspiring sight, an architecturally useless eyesore that almost made you wish for yet another weed filled parking lot downtown.

yet today we have a new symbol of downtown viability and excitement.

if this can happen to the worse of the buildings, there’s nothing nay-sayers can say about the prospects of any building in town.