New Albany Renewal

New Albany Renewal is intended to serve as a repository for ideas relevant to preserving and restoring historic buildings, cleaning up neighboorhoods, revitalizing downtown, and improving the quality of life in New Albany, Indiana.

Location: New Albany, Indiana

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More Sustainable Consuming

The Story of Stuff explains between consumption and a huge number of social and environmental problems. It takes about 20 minutes to watch this entertaining and informative production.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Comeback Story

Only 114 miles (or so) to our north, formerly down-at-the heels Fountain Square has re-made itself into a thriving, vibrant Indianapolis neighborhood.

Starting in the 1860's Fountain Square developed into the primary commercial district for the south side of Indianapolis. It was known as a solid working class neighborhood until decline began in the 1950's.

In the 1960's the interstate came through separating the business district from the adjacemt residential areas. During that time, Fountain Square lost 6,000 residents, almost 25% of its population.

Read more about the history of Fountain Square courtesy of IUPUI

I was in the Fountain Square area in the late 1980's and gritty is probably the best description of what it was like then. It's so exciting to read about what it's like now.

Southest Neighborhood Development (SEND) is responsible for much of the work that has been done in the Fountain Square neighborhood, along with nearby Fletcher Place and Bates-Hendricks.

See for yourself at the Fab for Less neighborhood improvement tour in August.

Monday, January 21, 2008

One of My Favorites

It's one of my favorites and now you can read it too!

Compromise, Hell!: Why have we let those entrusted with our country's defense beome it's destroyers? by Wendell Berry from the Nov/Dec 2004 issue of Orion magazine is a favorite clipping that I have read several times.

"...we have allowed ourselves to believe, and to live, a mated pair of economic lies: that nothing has a value that is not assigned to it by the market; and that the economic life or our communites can safely be handed over to the great corporations."

"It is true that economic violence is not always as swift, and is rarley as bloody, as the violence of war, but it can be devastating nonetheless. Acts of economic aggression can destroy a landscape or a community or the center of a town or city, and they routinely do so."

Want more? Read the entire article:

Living Economies

I can't believe that I haven't posted anything about BALLE. Evidently not. So here it is.

The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies or BALLE is working to create a group of local business networks dedicated to building strong Local Living Economies.

Living Economy Principles
A Living Economy ensures that economic power resides locally, sustaining healthy community life and natural life as well as long-term economic viability.

A Living Economy is guided by the following principles:

  • Living economy communities produce and exchange locally as many products needed by their citizens as they reasonably can, while reaching out to other communities to trade in those products they cannot reasonably produce at home. These communities value their unique character and encourage cultural exchange and cooperation.
  • Living economy public policies support decentralized ownership of businesses and farms, fair wages, taxes, and budget allocations, trade policies benefiting local economies, and stewardship of the natural environment.
  • Living economy citizens appreciate the benefits of buying from living economy businesses and, if necessary, are willing to pay a price premium to secure those personal and community benefits.
  • Living economy investors value businesses that are community stewards and as such accept a "living return" on their financial investments rather than a maximum return, recognizing the value derived from enjoying a healthy and vibrant community and sustainable global economy.
  • Living economy media provide sources of news independent of corporate control, so that citizens can make informed decisions in the best interests of their communities and natural environment.
  • Living economy businesses are primarily independent and locally owned, and value the needs and interests of all stakeholders while building long-term profitability.

They strive to:

  • Source products from businesses with similar values, with a preference for local procurement
  • Provide employees a healthy workplace with meaningful living-wage jobs
    Offer customers personal service and useful safe, quality products
  • Work with suppliers to establish a fair exchange
  • Cooperate with other businesses in ways that balance their self-interest with their obligation to the community and future generations
  • Use their business practices to support an inclusive and healthy community, and to protect our natural environment
  • Yield a "living return" to owners and investors

Find out more:

A Different Way to Do Business

I have some time to catch up on my posting today, so I have been flipping through my stack of clippings. It seems that I always have more information to share than I have time available for posting.

This particular clipping is from Orion magazine, Nov/Dec 2004 (yes, I am a bit behind). It's titled The Morning After and I just realized that it is by Bill McKibben, a leader in the sustainable ecomony movement and author of Deep Economy. Since I am going to have the privilege of hearing him speak later this week at a conference that I am attending, I decided to share this article here.

I'm sorry that I can't find the article online because I would like for you to have the opportunity to read the entire thing, but I'll do my best to give you a summary here.

This story is about a small community, Powell, Wyoming, that is bucking the big-box trend with a downtown clothing store. Powell Mercantile is a small store with racks of inexpensive clothes. What's different about Powell Mercantile? For one thing it is actually making money competing against the big chains.

It works because it is community owned. Five hundred people each invested between $500 and $1,000. They were told "to consider it more of a donation to the community, not a great investment."

It works because it's nothing fancy. It's carries what the residents of Powell want to wear. Jeans and shirts much like they would purchase at Wal-Mart. It works because the costs are strictly controlled.

And, mostly it works because "people looked around and decided that they wanted more than "always low prices"--they wanted neighbors, a downtown, a community that worked. They couldn't afford to pay gobs more than they would at Wal-Mart, but they also couldn't afford to watch their town slowly crater. So they did something about it."

You can read more about Bill McKibben and sustainable economies at his website

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Crusade to Clean Up

I recently read From the Bottowm Up: One Man's Crusade to Clean America's Rivers. This book by Chad Pregracke is the story of how he started the Living Lands and Waters organization which has a mission to clean up the Mississippi and other rivers, including the Ohio River.

This is an inspiring story that shows how much impact one person can have. Pregracke was sick of the trash the littered the Mississippi River and after realizing that no one was doing a thing about it decided to take action. When his first attempt to raise money to fund a clean-up organization didn't work out, he decided to just start cleaning up the trash himself. In 9 years the organization has grown from one man and a small boat, into a fleet of barges and workboats with a paid staff and thousands of volunteers.

The book includes the following tips:

Start Your Own Crusade: 13 Tips

1. Get involved with your cause, and not just by joining but by becoming active. Serve on a committtee, help with fund-raising, coordinate an event, do whatever you can--but do something.

2. Work with what you have at the time.

3. If you start with nothing but an idea, then there's nothing to lose. What have you really lost by making a phone call isfsomeone says no?

4. Don't expect anything from anybody--you'll just set yourself up for disappointment and despair.

5. Set high goals but realize that the bigger the goal, the more persistence, dedication, focus, and sacrifice it will take to achieve it. Big goals are accomplished only by taking small steps, and it starts with a single, small action.

6. Work as hard as you can every day and know that you can only do so much. As long as you've worked as hard as you can, then that's all you can do.

7. Plant trees. Lots of trees.

8. Your greatest weaknesses could be your biggest asset. It depends on how you look at it.

9. It's who you know, yes, but it's also who you don't know, yet.

10. Pick your battles and try to stay focused, because there are so many different problems that you could easily become distracted.

11. Don't expect the governmnet to take care of something. We are the government.

12. If you're just starting out and someone tells you to have your people call their people, say, "Okay, my mom will call tomorrow."

13. Don't forget to water your trees.

Developing Your Vision

Do you desire change in your community? Have you decided that in order for change to happen you will need to help make it happen? If you answered yes, the following is for you:

A Vision for Change
Create a vision for change by focusing on community needs.

In order to help you focus on what your vision might include, consider answering these questions:

What are the top five needs in my community?
o How do I know that this statement is true?
o Why do these needs exist?
o What project can be done to address the root causes of these needs?
o Where do I fit in to address these causes?
o What will the community look like after the project is completed?
o What will be the long-term effects of the project on the community?

These helpful guidelines for creating a vision for change are from the Girl Scout Gold Award. High school age girls earn the highest award in Girl Scouting by creating a vision for change and then developing and implementing a service project that addresses the community need they have identified. They must invest at least 50 hours in the project.

I have had the pleasure of working with many of the girls in our area who have earned Gold Awards in the past few years. It is amazing how much leadership these girls show and what an impact the projects have. Many of the adults who I have worked with on community projects don't have the kind of vision and leadership skills these girls possess.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hands-On Restoration -- Hardware Help

I'm cleaning out my clipping file -- never know what I might have stuck in there.

A tip on how to strip paint from hardware from Bungalow magazine.

Boil water; add Arm and Hammer Superwash. Add hardware and boil until the paint is gone. It takes about 10-15 minutes.

I have not tried this but it supposedly orginates with the folks at Rejuvenation.

Insurance for Historic Property

Need insurance for your historic property? The National Trust for Historic Preservation has an insurance affiliate with experience and understanding of insurance needs specific to historic properties.

From Farm to Table

Heather and Marc Hill, farmers from Greenfield, IN, are part of a small, but growing effort to sell food directly to consumers.

As part of coursework for her MBA, Heather developed a business plan for The Pork Shoppe. As part of her plan she says she, "studied the demand for locally-raised livestock and people being in the know about where their food comes from."

The Hills have implemented Heather's business plan and now have some of the 11,000 hogs they sell commercially custom butchered and packaged. They sell their products to an ever-growing list of customers, mostly at farmers markets. The Edibles market in the Irvington neighborhood of Indianapolis is another outlet for their pork. Their ultimate goal is to have a retail location at their farm.

They find that their customers like knowing where their food is coming from.

From The Hoosier Farmer, Winter 2006-2007.

How Sustainable Can You Go?

George Wilkes, the owner of a sucessful fish-and-chips restaurant on the north shore of Lake Surperior, knows sustainability and applies his values to every aspect of his business.

At the Angry Trout Cafe he serves locally produced food, his servers wear locally made organic cotton aprons, takeout containers are reusable, wooden pens are refillable, and the straws are compostable.

If you would like to find out more about this example of sustainability in action you are in luck becuause Wilkes has written the Angry Trout Cafe Notebook: Friends, Recipes, and the Culture of Sustainability. (Northwind Sailing)

From Jul/Aug 2005 Orion magazine.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Walkable New Albany

The inner core of New Albany was originally designed as a walkable community. When our streets were laid out and our sidewalks first constructed no one had ever heard the term walkable cities, but they knew that the residents needed to be able to walk to work, school, church, and shopping. After all, there were no cars.

We are fortunate to have inherited the infrastucture for a walkable city. This is a valuable asset that we can take advantage of. A few minor changes and upgrades will position us to make the most of the growing demand for walkable, urban environments. This is a sound strategy for keeping our older neighborhoods viable.

From Walkable Communities Inc. at

Walkability is the cornerstone and key to an urban area's efficient ground transportation. Every trip begins and ends with walking. Walking remains the cheapest form of transport for all people, and the construction of a walkable community provides the most affordable transportation system any community can plan, design, construct and maintain. Walkable communities put urban environments back on a scale for sustainability of resources (both natural and economic) and lead to more social interaction, physical fitness and diminished crime and other social problems. Walkable communities are more liveable communities and lead to whole, happy, healthy lives for the people who live in them.

According to AARP, urban living appeals to retired people, empty nesters, baby boomers, and young families alike. They like the convenience of having stores, entertainment, and services all within walking distance.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Green Roofs

A new movement in improving the environment is the concept of green roofs.

Rooftop gardens lower temperatures and filter the air that passes over them which helps to reduce air pollution. Green roofs last twice as long as conventional roofs and may be used to grow useful vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

According to the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, "Green roof technologies not only provide the owners of buildings with a proven return on investment, but also represent opportunities for significant social, economic and environmental benefits, particularly in cities."

Find out more about green roof technologies at their website:

Sounds radical? According to the Winter 2006 issue of Herb Quarterly, in Chicago even Target, Walmart, and McDonald's have green roofs.