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

Saturday, January 29, 2005

If You Know Where You Are Going . . .

. . . it's easier to get there. Does New Albany have a plan?

Take a look at the Asheville, NC city website and make sure to read the Strategic Operating Plan (select it from the drop-down menu under "Featuring"). Asheville has a comphrensive plan that includes funding for small business development among other things.

Museum Suggestion

A suggestion by a reader, Brandon Smith:

Just thinking on the spot here, but I wonder if an Immigration museum, focusing on, but not limited to the massive influx of German and Irish settlors would have a big enough draw? That would certainly tie into regional history and be interesting to lots of folks in the Midwest. Outside of the German and Irish core, you could easily tie in African-Americans, Scandinavians, Latin Americans, etc. Could actually serve as a type of cultural center as well, if done right. In fact, part of the description of the City Flag ("Standard") reads:"white shield edged in gold, symbolic of the character and courage of the varied nationalities of our ancestors,"Just a random idea...

Munice has a cultural center, Minnstrsita. Take a look at the website:

Friday, January 28, 2005

Develop New Albany Debuts Website

Develop New Albany is a non-profit organization that supports historic preservation and economic development of the downtown district. Read more about the organization on the new website.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Museums Bring Tourists

One of the keys to creating tourism with a museum is to find a topic with wide appeal. A museum of local history, for instance, would not stand alone as a tourist destination.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which opened in August, honors a part of history that is both important to the Cincinnati area where it is located and has a wider audience.

The idea of an of an Underground Railroad museum, perhaps a traveling museum, was first suggested at a meeting of the Cincinnati chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The idea grew from there and the center ended up raising $60 million from private donations (there were a number of celebrity donors) and $50 million from public sources, including the Department of Education.

Build It and They Will Come?

A group of local businessmen in the Northern Kentucky partnered with Oceanic Adventures, a company that specializes in aquariums to build the Newport Aquarium on the bank of the Ohio River in Newport, KY.

It is important to note that they were able to take advantage of incentives offered under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act which encourages the growth of new attractions over $1 million by allowing up to 25% of the development costs to be recovered over a 10-year period.

The Newport Aquarium is the anchor for an entertainment complex which includes movies, restaurants, bars, and retail stores. The majority of the businesses are owned by chains. It is very much like a family-friendly version of Third Street Live in Louisville.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

More About Paducah

Perhaps you have heard Paducah, KY called Quilt City USA and wondered how Paducah came to be Quilt City USA.

Bill and Marilyn Schroeder of Paducah, owners of Schroeder Publishing (collectors know them for their top-notch price guides) and collectors of contemporary quilts, started the American Quilter's Society in 1984 to support quilters by promoting the study and development of quilts.

In 1985 the AQS held their first quilt show in Paducah. Over the years the show grew and became know by quilters all over the world. Ask a quilter (there are a lot of them in New Albany) and even if they have not attended the show they will most likely be familiar with it. The Paducah-McCracken Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that the quilt show brings in 15 million a year to the local economy. Hotels in a 60-100 mile radius fill up and local families rent out rooms to the overflow. Local restaurants cannot accomodate the crowds so local churches step in to serve meals (and raise funds). In 1991 the AQS built a museum in downtown Paducah giving the downtown a year-round boost.

The folks in Paducah recognized the pennies from heaven that were raining down and started to build on that by branding their city Quilt City USA.

Two years ago when I was in Paducah much of the downtown redevelopment was centered around tourism--antique malls and shops, gift shops, quilting supply shops, and restaurants. At that time a performing arts center was under construction downtown and was expected to draw residents from the surrounding area. Things were looking up for Paducah.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Economic Development that Works

The good news is that New Albany has hired a full-time economic development director. The bad news is that it isn't as simple as just hiring an economic development director.

It's worth taking a look at the economic develpoment organization that the city of Fort Wayne, IN has put in place, Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance.

"The Alliance was created as a result of the collaboration of Allen County, the City of Fort Wayne and the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, but it will operate independently as neither a unit of government nor of the Chamber. The Alliance, a not-for-profit entity, is contracted to deliver the community's message as a coordinator of information and resources. The mission of the Alliance is to speak with one consistent, informed and empowered voice to businesses about the benefits of a location in this community."

Check out Fort Wayne's website. Click on "For Businesses". In addition, to reading about The Alliance take a look at how the website promotes Fort Wayne to businesses interesting in locating there.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Historic Preservation in Paducah

Many people have heard of the artist relocation program in Paducah, KY (a testament to the efforts of their publicist). The artisit relocation program is not a downtown redevelopment project. It is a historic preservation program in a residential neighborhood.

Lower Town was a neighborhood of shabby older houses that had for the most part been divided into substandard apartments by absentee landloards. The city's approach to this problem neighborhood was to allow the houses to deteriorate until they were abandoned. Then the city condemned them and bulldozed them.

A new city adminstration sympathetic to historic preservation and a local artist with a vision gave birth to the artist relocation program.

The first thing that was done was to adopt a strcit rental-licensing ordinance. As you can imagine this was not without controversy. Low income residents were displaced and landlords were forced to upgrade properties.

Since artists have a need for affordable houses where they can both work and live they were chosen as the target group for the Lower Town properties.

A large amount of information about the artist relocation program is available.

Search: artist relocation paducah ky

Here is a good article from Preservation Online:

The Artist Relocation website:

And the Courier-Journal's coverage of the controversy:

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Bright Side

A couple months ago I heard it mentioned that Greg Roberts, president of the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association, had set up a meeting with represenatatives of Operation Brightside in Louisville with an eye to creating a Brightside-like organization for New Albany.

Just exactly what is Operation Brightside and what does it do?

Operation Brightside was set up by Mayor Jerry Abramson in 1986 as partnership between citizens and governement with a mission of cleaning up Louisville. It operates as a non-profit corporation with a full time paid staff and a volunteer board of directors.

Operation Brightside oversees 4 programs:

Cleanups--Operation Brightside sponsors neighborhood cleanups by suppling bags, gloves, and trash disposal.

Beautification Programs--Neighbor groups and businesses purchase intersections, meadians, street-side parks. There is also a community garden program.

Green Mile--Groups and businesses sign up to keep stretches of roads clean.

Environmental Education--Conducts programs for schools.

One thing that the Operation Brightside web page doesn't mention is whether the help they provide to neighborhoods doing cleanups extends to code enforcement.

It seems obvious that an organization like this would be an asset to New Albany.

Several specific projects immediately come to mind:

Neighborhood Clean Ups--especially in the older neighborhoods and downtown the alleys need to be cleaned up. Many yards in the older neighborhoods and in some subdivisions need to be cleaned up.

Parking Lot Beautification--we all know that parking will be the first objection to downtown business development. Since so many buildings have been torn down there seems to be ample room for additional parking. Wouldn't it be nice if the parking lots could be attractively landscaped? Businesses and organizations could sign on to maintain the landscaping.

Park Beautification--a couple years ago I had the opportunity to visit all of the parks in New Albany with teenagers who were doing an inventory of outdoor recreational facilities in New Albany. Except for Community Park, our parks have only the most basic equipment and facilities. A little landscaping would go along way toward improving the aesthetics of our parks.

Community Gardens--in our older neighborhoods there are often vacant lots where the houses have been lost to fire or neglect. Some community gardens tucked into open spaces would add to the character and appeal of the older neighborhoods.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Can New Albany be a "New City"?

The NewCities Foundation is a Kentucky organization established by the Kentucky League of Cities. A "New City" is tomorrow's city. The foundation was created to cultivate civic leadership and citizen involvement. The foundation has identified 12 principles that encourage citizenship and leadership.

1. Connect to the World

2. Encourage Youth, Diversity, and Inclusiveness

3. Feed the Mind, Nuture the Soul

4. Embrace Healthy Living

5. Remain True to the City's Uniqueness

6. Don't Merely Grow - Plan and Develop Over Time

7. Build Beautifully and Steward the Environment

8. Cultivate Leadership and Citizen Involvement

9. Recruit, Retain, and Generate Wealth

10. Mimic Bigness, but Think Samll

11. Rethink Boundaries

12. Buy Locally, Sell Globally

The NewCities principles empasize that successful projects need to involve both citizens and elected officials.

An article in the December 2004 issue of Kentucky Monthly describes a successful downtown development project in Springfield, KY. A circa 1900 opera house that had been acquired by the city in 2002 was rennovated. A volunteer board managed the project which used state funds.

The mayor supported the project by starting the Mayor's Fund for the Arts. He personally raised funds from corporate donors to sponsor performances at the opera house.

In addition to being used as a venue for performances, a welcome/tourism center and the offices of 3 organizations (which take turns staffing the welcome center) are housed in the building.

While Springfield, a small, rural community located more than 60 miles from Louisville cannot be compared to New Albany, the example of a successful downtown development project is useful.

Sorry, the Kentucky Monthly article is not available online.

Monday, January 17, 2005


"Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob'ly die in a small town"

Substitute New Albany for small town (because we can't quite call New Albany a small town) and you have my story. I was born and raised here and I have lived here my entire life.

New Albany has a reputation for being a place where mediocrity is tolerated and where no one really expects anything to change, especially not for the better. I am tired of settling for mediocrity. Amazingly, over the past few months I have discovered that I am not alone.

There are people in New Albany/Floyd county who are doing their best to establish and maintain viable businesses, preserve historic buildings, protect the environment, clean up and improve older neighborhoods, and revitalize downtown. These are intelligent people who are not only passionate about what they believe in but are determined to do their best to see their visions realized.

Our elected officials should take note that for these people it IS about passion for the community and desire for improvement and not about political aspirations. These are not partisan issues and the citizens who are becoming activists for their causes are becoming political because they must in order to effect change.

We need leadership and a workable plan but in the meantime I hope that I will be able to pull together some ideas and information that could spark creative thinking and be useful in crafting a plan.