Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hat Trick on the Nudge List

The post to which this refers was originally was written on September 20, 2011. It lists a number of goals I want to nudge the next mayor into pursuing. This focuses on three of those. The original can be viewed by scrolling down to September 20, 2011.

On one of the first cool Saturdays of fall we walked to the farmer's market from our house on Captain Frank Road. On the way to the market we walked along State Street after turning from Captain Frank. The return trip was State to Cherry, then through the graveyard on West Street.

Of striking note was the high number of vacant houses on Cherry Street. Cherry is a relatively short street of something less than a full mile. In that short stretch, we counted six or seven vacant houses, comprising as much as one third of the entire street's houses. Some were in poor condition, most were simply vacant.

At the intersection of Cherry and State Streets is a ponding area for the inconvenient, and seasonal, collection of excessive rain. It also claims the hosting of a billboard as one of its purposes. This forlorn acreage, though highly visible from one of our main thoroughfares, State Street, is usually in an unkempt state of overgrowth and seeming abandonment. It is bounded by State Street, Cherry Street, PC Building Materials, and Falling Run Creek.

A missing line on the list of amenities to be found in New Albany is a dog park. Such a place allows citizens with dogs the privilege of exercising their pets off-leash in a protected, confined, and legal, area. Louisville has several such parks, and they are provided in many cities across the U.S.. For people with dogs nothing compares with the reward your pet realizes from an unfettered run to burn off energy and get the exercise he needs.

One boundary of the ponding area is Falling Run Creek. This stream runs through much of New Albany, but makes one of its most impressive showings as it passes near and through the downtown.

That these three features and challenges come together near the intersection of State and Cherry Streets allows this area to become a transformational neighborhood in New Albany's revival. That is why a strong case can be made to focus the next Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) on Cherry Street. While this street is vulnerable to the same real estate troubles affecting other parts of the city, it is extremely well positioned to come out of that downward spiral if the proper combination of attention and money are deployed on its behalf. If such attention is not paid to this area I fear it could reach a tipping point from which it may not recover. And yet, because Cherry Street is short,and strategically located it is a feasible candidate for a new NSP strategy.

Pursuing a dog park at the intersection would remove a blighted, neglected area and replace it with a welcome amenity for only a small up-front expense. All that is needed is the installation of a fence along the perimeter and another fence within to separate small dogs from large ones. The space even has a serviceable road in place which can be brought up to usable condition with a few loads of gravel. The ongoing expense of maintaining the park should be offset with a nominal user/membership fee collected from those who wish to exercise their pets there.

Once the ponding area finds new life as a dog park, it will naturally open up the area to Falling Run Creek, which acts as the southern border of the proposed park. This stream could then be reclaimed for our citizenry as a narrow park dissecting much of the city. This park could be a walking/jogging/biking path through large areas of the city. The advantages of this park would be primarily realized by those who avail themselves of a convenient, low-traffic path for exercise and destinational biking and walking. But, Falling Run is also a critical element of storm water drainage, and renewed access to, and use of, the stream would naturally lead to keeping it cleaner for this important task.

Few areas of the city offer the prospect of turning so quickly from a position of peril to a position of desirability. Cherry Street straddles the downtown area while also offering easy access to the major commercial area of State Street near I-265. The housing stock is varied in size and style. Vacant houses appear to be in decent shape and could be made more appealing to buyers.

I hope to be in a position to help the next mayor see the need and value of focusing on Cherry Street, with its dog park along Falling Run.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nudge List--Brick Streets

Below are a couple of posts which appeared here earlier addressing the uncovering of brick streets.

While this may seem retrograde, I think of it as something we can do now which has at least a dual benefit. One benefit is saving money on paving. Another, if done properly, is using this hidden asset to highlight and define historic areas of the city. Actually, it should have more benefits than just these two, but we'll never know if we don't try. Alleys, which I didn't focus on in the two links, might be an easier place to start; they are in generally worse shape than streets, and they don't seem to have as many utility patches.

Hit the Bricks

Whetting Your Appetite

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Got Milk?

I had occasion to be near Sixth and Jefferson Streets yesterday. This is one venue of the Louisville version of Occupy Wall Street.

I stopped by to see if anything was happening. A crowd of around 20-30 people were milling around some picnic tables, and some of these people were engaged in a General Assembly in which decisions about policy are made in an open forum. I was not close enough to hear what the particular issue was, and I was only catching the tail end of the process.

I did hear one man say he wanted to discuss Christopher Columbus, at which time I left to feed the parking meter. When I returned, he was, in fact, conducting a discussion about Columbus and the ill-effects his "discovery" had on the inhabitants of the New World.

While driving to Louisville I heard on the radio dismissive talk of the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon, primarily in New York, but a few other cities were singled out for criticism. The common refrain was "what do these people want?" The idea being that this protest or gathering is delegitimized because it has not produced a coherent manifesto of its purpose and intentions. It has not even endorsed a presidential campaign yet. And I feel fairly certain it has not lined up corporate sponsorships with any companies engaged in the sale of camping gear.

That criticism is unfair.

This movement is kind of like a cake being baked. At the moment the ingredients are being laid out on the table. Since it is being baked by loose knit "committees", some want chocolate, some want lemon, some want nuts, it is entirely too early to pass judgment on the cake's eventual value to and acceptance by the political diners who will behold it when it emerges from the oven.

Personally, I'm intrigued by the process. I am hopeful for meaningful results. (I'd like to see public financing of elections, the abandonment of the legal fiction of corporate personhood, a return to meaningful financial rules including the Glass Steagall Act, and a fair apportionment of tax burdens--that will do for starters)
And, I am grateful for the trouble these patriotic people are taking on our nation's behalf.

I anxiously await the cake's removal from the oven, because then it's time for the icing.