Neighborhood turnaround can and does happen all across the country. Communities realize the value of restoration and the value of historic Preservation as an economic development tool.
|This once blighted block shines thanks to people who recognized the architectural value of these properties|
The Holy Cross Neighborhood in Indianapolis has made a remarkable turnaround in less than a decade. Once, a high crime-low income, mostly rental neighborhood it has been transformed into one of the most desired communities near downtown. In fact a developer recently announced the development of 17 new homes on a patch of old industrial land. This will be the crowning achievement of a community that once struggled. It achieved that turnaround based on solid principals that historic preservation and restoration works as an economic development tool and is key to turnaround
A case in point in this Block. In 2003 this block has serious issues, Vacant or converted to illegal apartments there was little stability here. Chain link defined property lines and the area was devoid of flowers or the perception that anyone cared about this block. Due to the transient nature of rentals , there was no neighborhood stability. The value of these 5 homes combined was less than 20,000.00 and as a result they generated minimal property taxes which did little to offset the services they generated via police runs or cleanups by the Health department.
Some felt the solution was demolition but other in the community saw the value in these 5 properties all built between 1895 and 1898 as part of a speculative project called Winona Park. In fact some of these homes till retained original columns and detailing in spite of the hard use by tenants.
In 2003 we were in the midst of other restorations in the neighborhood when one of these homes came up for sale. Nearby neighbors were urging us to buy it because otherwise it was destined to be turned into two family home. This house has had all the historic interior ripped out , replaced by plastic trim and carpet. If we didn't buy it, who would? The neighborhood would have suffered from lack of investment and most certainly would never look the way it does today. So we bought it and though busy with other restorations , began turning one house around.
We built custom built-ins and we terraced and landscaped the yard, a new carriage house was the first construction the block had seen since the 1950's In fact it was the ONLY garage on that block. As we worked and painted and landscaped a funny thing happened, people began to notice that things were happening. The slumlords could not conduct business as usual and one by one those properties became available, and others began restoration. Properties that were once hard to sell at 20K sold for over 200K.
A block once worth less than 20K now has an assessed value at well over 1 million dollars. Families who care now live on this block. It is safe, and come spring, people will be out in their yards and everyone will be looking forward to the neighborhood block party held in the fall.
Demolition was an option for some, but we held firm, kept the pressure up on the slumlords, get them to sell and eventually we will have a great block of historic homes that the community would be proud off.
So while Cincinnati is determined to demolish 600 homes this year as yourself who really benefits? Is it the community? or, is it the demo contractors and city employees who administer the demo program.
We need to learn from other cities and we need to understand that even the most 'blighted' property can be turned around and more importantly can be restored and contribute to community tax base.