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

Friday, September 08, 2006

Good City, Good for County

The edges of almost every metropolitan area expand into the surrounding rural areas. In some cases it is a gradual creep and in others rapid development as new houses and businesses spring up in farm fields almost overnight.

The residents of Floyd county are certainly not immune to this trend. People who moved to the country to get away from the city and enjoy a rural lifestyle find that other people and businesses are following so quickly that the country is quickly turning into more of what they thought they left behind.

W magazine is not my usual fare and not the kind of publication where I would expect to run across a concept for rural preservation but the magazine was in our breakroom at work and a blurb on the cover caught my eye.

Turns out that the Derby Days blurb on the cover was for a story about Laura Brown and Steve Wilson. If you read the newspapers and the blogs I don't need to tell you that they are the couple who are using their fortune to open 21c and Proof on Main and are spending $380 million to build Museum Plaza in downtown Louisville.

I have been reading about their efforts but either I missed something or none of the stories I read mentioned their motivation. They love living in the country outside Louisville but they see development encroaching. Their goal is to slow down the suburbanization of Louisville's rural outskirts. Their idea is that by making the city center a more attractive place to live it will be less attractive for people to move out to the rural areas.

Such a simple idea and one that any rural resident can implement without spending millions.

If you don't want more people following you to the country support every effort that is being made to make the urban areas of our community a better place to live. It can be as simple as supporting activities and events that take place in the city. It could be volunteering for organizations that support historic preservation or affordable housing. It could be making an effort to patronize businesses located in the urban core so they don't have to take their business to you and build a new shopping center in your backyard.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Why Downtown Is Important

Most of this information was found at National Trust for Historic Preservation.

1. Even a small commercial district employs 100s of people. (New Albany's downtown daily working population is around 4,000 people)

2. Dowtown is a reflection of the community image, pride, prosperity, and investment. All critical factors to business recruitment and retention.

3. When property values downtown drop the tax burden shifts to other parts of town.

4. A traditional commercial district is an ideal location for independent businesses, which:

  • Keep profits in town
  • Support other local businesses and services
  • Support local families with family-owned businesses
  • Support local community projects
  • Provide a stable economic foundation

5. Downtown is the historic core of the community. It gives the community a visual identity and helps reinforce an intangible sense of community.

6. A historic commercial district is often a tourist attraction. When people travel or shop they want to see unique places.

7. A vital downtown reduces sprawl. Community resources such as infrastructure, tax dollars, and land are used wisely.

8. A healthy downtown protects property values in surrounding residential neighborhooods.

9. A downtown commercial district offers convenience to nearby residential areas and reduces reliance on auto-dependent shopping.

10. Downtown represents a hughe public and private investment. Imagine how much it would cost to recreate all of the buildings and public infrastructure downtown.


1. There is no magic bullet.

2. Change will be needed. Traditional commercial districts will not be able to offer the kinds of goods and services they offered decades ago. A new business mix is needed.

3. It can't be done alone. Downtown is not entirely the city's responsibility, but independent business owners can't do it alone, and neither can citizen activists. A cooperative effort that brings together a variety of skills and views is essential.

4. Revitalization won't happen overnight. It is a slow process that begins with small steps.

5. The process is never finished.