Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Random thoughts for a random Tuesday.

1. Why do we judge government and private action by such different standards? The private market let the Baptist Tabernacle languish for decades but, when the city bought it, some said they'd better hurry up and do something with it, lest the purchase be viewed as proof that private interests would've handled the property better.

Have these folks been exposed to a different history than I have? Or, by "hurry up" do they mean within the next 25 years or so? And, if there is sudden, significant interest, couldn't the city just sell it?

2. Why don't we just go ahead and provide free wireless Internet access downtown? Have we even examined how much it would cost? We have at least three networking companies downtown. Surely they can help earn their enterprise zone tax breaks.

3. Where are we supposed to sit downtown? I don't think I've ever been in a successful city center anywhere that didn't have ample seating.

4. How much is a small surface parking lot worth downtown? They're unquestionably one of the most unattractive, inefficient uses of urban space. If we're going to use public money to buy property, lets start buying them up. They're cheaper, as is planting grass and trees rather than rehabbing buildings. We'd have places to sit and connect with each other and the Internet, and buildings right next to parks are more attractive. They could also function as market and event space.

5. What's wrong with the industrial zone just east of Vincennes in the general vicinity of Main and Market? Isn't there a bunch of empty and/or underutilized property there? Who wouldn't want their high tech campus to overlook the river? Couldn't people walk or ride bikes to jobs there using preexisting infrastructure, including folks from Clarksville and Jeffersonville when the Greenway is complete and from across the river when the K&I bridge is opened back up?

6. Is it fair to ask new investors to spend $300-500K to purchase and do full building rehabs when long-time building and business owners- some of whom have probably paid off their buildings or have some serious equity to work with- aren't even expected to open their windows and paint every once in a while?


ecology warrior said...

I believe it all boils down to embracing smart growth initiatives, eco-friendly development and most importantly an administration that is committed to true economic development that sees the process holistically, fusing quality of life, workforce development/education, the cultural aspects and a mindset that says developers are not going to do as they please without some accountability as to the impacts they have on the infrastructure and the environment.

It appears to me that the current strategy of this administration is a continuation of the mentality we have had in the past 20 years, TIF and tax abatements without regulation or stringent requirements to justify the tools.

for an example of progressive ED look at Waco Texas and other cities that value green development and have significantly raised the quality of life there.

I believe it comes down to a paradigm shift in thw way local government must think and view economic development and I am not convinced at this point that this administration has embraced that change, so prove me wrong.

I am on the same wavelength as you are Bluegill I just dont agree that this current leadership is the committed to it or has the expertise to deliver it.

John Gonder said...


What is the value of a small surface parking lot downtown?

It's priceless when you consider what was knocked down at the corner of Pearl and Spring to provide that particular parking lot.

The sites of the old Box and Basket factory, Willet Furniture and currently J&J Pallet would make a great high tech campus. The proximity to downtown would be a plus for the campus and a boon to downtown. It would be an obvious great benefit to the entire city but particularly so for that neighborhood.

Risking the wrath of the Ecology Warrior, I'd suggest one of the few ways to bring such a vision to fruition is through the judicious use of Tax Increment Financing. The vaunted marketplace has yet to recognize the value of this diamond in the rough. TIF could be used to create an industrial park or something like it with a high tech focus.

As you've probably read, a committee has formed to assess the best uses of the Baptist Tabenacle building. As a member of that committee, I'm excited by the prospects for that structure. More importantly though, the
City has made a move consistent with preservation of some of those things which make this community valuable and which present a viable counter force to outward sprawl. I wish such steps had been taken in the past as other significant buildings were torn down and other opportunities to shape a livable city were passed up.

So again, I'll defend and commend the Mayor for his decision to step out front with this bold move. It adds nothing to fight the last the election over and over with criticism of anything and everything the Mayor does when the reality of commitment is evident to anyone with an open mind and open eyes.

I've heard grousing about the boarded up windows at Schmitt Furniture. I've never spoken to anyone from Schmitt about them, but I'd bet they don't want sunlight in because it could fade the furniture.

Since there are special types of windows that reduce or eliminate the harmful effects of sunlight, perhaps Schmitt could avail itself of certain funding souces to bring a more inviting appearance to the Furniture Corner.

ecology warrior said...

your eyes are the ones closed John, you are blinded by the rubber stamp disease that affects all politicians.

The last election has nothing to do with it, res ipsa loquitor, the facts will speak for themselves

John Manzo said...

I'm excited to see what goes into the Baptist Tabernacle. I think it was a great idea for the city to purchase that. Obviously no one else wanted it!!!

Making the downtown wireless would be a major tech draw, I would think. I'd love to see some more high tech downtown. It would be really neat if a place like Bean Street or Coffee Crossing would invest in a place downtown, make it really nice, wireless, and be a major 'hang out' as these places often turn into. I'd be more reluctant to have a chain like Starbucks move in, but I'd almost prefer anyone other than the dearth we have now.

Sitting places downtown....makes me think that we need to put some benches in our garden area...

ecology warrior said...

actually John Manzo, many buildings downtown could be converted to low cost LECs, local exchange carriers offering broadband. I believe the opportunity exists for a technology incubator as well through partnering with either IUS or Purdue.

A study was conducted before Mayor Garner was elected outlining the broadband and technology issues and opportunities for Southern Indiana and Mayor Garner had intentions to implement many of the strategies and recommmendations in a second term.

So let's see if Doug is as progressive as he claims.

Unknown said...

1. this is easy. I had no knowledge that the building was even for sale until it was posted on your blog. This is even after I asked super mike to start looking for me.
The difference between private interest and the city?
Private interest would have a plan BEFORE they purchased the building. Only the city would spend the money and then say "duh, what are we going to do now?" Sorry to step on anyone's toes, but the truth hurts.
It's poor stewardship for the city. Applaud them for spending the money for "saving" a building, is one thing, asking them for a purpose and justify the $250,000 (est) to fix it up, the unknown amount of money to purchase the "proposed fire dept museum" is another.

If this is the best the city can do, it's pathetic. It once again shows that even with a new administration, there is still no fiscal responsibility.

The city has sooooo many problems but it actually has the resources to waste on putting together the "what are we going to do now" committee.

Am I anti-preservation? no, i'm the one who's made and continues to make a solid investment downtown.
Was there a historic building removed to put up the new fire department that takes up a city block? or has it always been an empty lot???

2. We can't even get electrical outlets for lights at christmas, and I could push free wireless in a two block radius, but there's not a lot of motivation to do anything for a city that does nothing but harass my customers with $10 tickets with $90 penalties!

3. I'll put a chair out for you.

4. This is a good idea. and when it's done, the skateboards can come down, pull up all the benches, signs and everything else they can find to make ramps. they do it frequently on pearl. the only thing you can get NAPD to do is write bogus parking tickets!

5. Great Idea! A progressive local government would have pursued those buildings and offered incentives to have tech companies locate there. but hey, we'll have a fire truck museuem, and if thing don't change, we'll have a "downtown museum"!

6. The biggest problem with downtown development (IMHO) are the landlords who just don't get it. They do stupid stuff (connor's place fiasco), or they sit on their building and could care less what happens, or want way too much money than what their actually worth. The city either need to subsidize (oh that's right, we're broke) or force them to clean 'em up. It's discouraging for the businesses that are trying to be in a place where the vacant building are allowed to look like abandoned garages.

Unknown said...

Where's the city, their money, and the preservationist when you need them?

John Gonder said...

Was there a historic building removed to put up the new fire department that takes up a city block? or has it always been an empty lot???

In case your question is not rhetorical, the building which previously shared the current site of the fire house was the Mannerchoir building. It was in private hands and collapsed because of inattention and maintenance not performed.

This would seem to argue forcefully for government intervention on behalf of the Tabernacle building while it is still fairly easily returned to viaility.

I would wager the list of possible uses is very short, and will be finalized by mid-summer.

pete said...

Greetings from Kiev!

Maybe code enforcement and active ordinances requiring a building to be maintained could have saved the building?

a proactive city government would keep the buildings from falling into disrepair.

a reactive city government would wait until they're a bargain, buy them and waste taxpayers money fixing them up for something that isn't even needed.

I don't remember "fire museum" listed as a priority during the election, do you?

Or has the city of new albany abandoned commerce and entered the business of restoration? should cities that function in the black have those privileges?

Can you honestly say, that this purchase was in the BEST interest of ALL new albany residents, or a minority?

John Gonder said...

As Shakespeare said, "what's past is prologue".

In light of the rent paid to the County for the City's use of the City-County building, I believe moving City offices to another location would benefit all citizens. That is one of the possibilities under consideration.

The savings would be in excess of $11,000 per month in case you were wondering.

pete said...

there is no savings.
If you spend $100,000 for the building, $250,000 for renovations, restoration, and bringing up to code,
it will take you 3 years before you even break even on your return on investment.

Spend $350,000 for economic growth that will increase business and employment and you will have accomplished something.

A wise man that wanted to save $11,000 a month could own any building that's already in usable condition for less than $3,000 a month.

If we were writing a book here, Shakespeare would be useful.

Jeff Gillenwater said...


I think we've established that you're not a fan of the Tabernacle purchase. Many disagree. So be it.

With increased employment as your aforementioned goal, on what would you spend $350,000?

pete said...

there's a difference between being a "fan" of the purchase, and having the wisdom to discern if it was a good purchase for the good of the city.

Like I've said, if we were a functioning city with fiscal responsibility, this would be a good move. what some "fans" of the purchase seem to have a hard time with is admitting this was not bright move for a city that talks about budget cuts one day and spends money on a building that is not needed the next.

Do you have ANY idea how many investors walk away from downtown simply because the city offers absolutely NOTHING as an incentive?

Where something would equal growth, nothing equals nothing. Everyone wants to talk about the "revitalization" of downtown, but the risk and incentive lies in the heart of owner, knowing full well the city offers nothing but ear tickling. Since we have hillbilly mentality when it comes from finances, maybe the great Jethro could explain it best with his "Ciphering":
Not from Not is Not.
It's not shakespeare, but it seems to fit...

Jeff Gillenwater said...

OK. Forget the use of colloquialism.

How would you use $350K to provide incentives? Small loans of some kind? Rehab grants? Financing one of Jethro's film projects?

I'm just looking for ideas here, Pete.