Thursday, July 31, 2014

Just like here, this development is anything but.

Over and over again, local governments tell us public investment in and making exceptions for chain stores and larger out-of-state businesses is the only way to develop a town or city. New Albany is no different. But it doesn't work and we know it doesn't work. Cities just keep doing it anyway, pouring money into no and low return "investments" while others do the public heavy lifting for less.

Posting examples repeatedly gets tiring but, for the sake of sport, here's another.
The Taco John's of Buffalo by Jordan Then (Strong Towns)  
As you can see, the older buildings have a value 212% higher per square foot than the new Walgreens. The city collects $51,284 dollars in property tax on the older buildings compared to $26,013 from the new Walgreens. The older buildings also contain 15 businesses and an unknown number of second story apartments, which enhance the overall walkability of the neighborhood, while the blank wall of the Walgreens provides nothing for pedestrians.

Given the innumerable examples - what some may call "evidence" - it's at least somewhat heartening to see an analyst, in this case Aaron Renn, taking the question to those who tend not to like them.
Do Cities Really Want Economic Development? by Aaron M. Renn (Governing)
A poor economy and all the problems that come with it actually benefit some people, giving powerful players less incentive to improve the status quo for the rest. 
Jane Jacobs took it even further. As she noted in The Economy of Cities, “Economic development, whenever and wherever it occurs, is profoundly subversive of the status quo.” And it isn’t hard to figure out that even in cities and states with serious problems, many people inside the system are benefiting from the status quo. 
They have political power, an inside track on government contracts, a nice gig at a civic organization or nonprofit, and so on. All of these people, who are disproportionately in the power broker class of most places, potentially stand to lose if economic decline is reversed. That’s not to say they are evil, but they all have an interest to protect.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Nudist, beach-like freedom is not what it used to be."

(there is no illustration, so I can dodge charges of sexism or what not)

I arrived by train in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1987.

After securing a room at the hostel, my first stop was a small shop, where salami, bread and a few bottles of beer were purchased. It was noon, and a walk of a couple hundred yards to the lake on a brilliant, warm late spring day. Lots of office workers were headed the same direction.

By coincidence, I was a few paces behind an attractive brunette, perhaps my age (27 at the time), or a bit younger. When we got to the public area by the water, she pulled a blanket from her bag, threw it on the ground, and slipped out of her work clothes, all in one speedy practiced motion. She wore a bikini bottom and nothing else.

It was all so nonchalant and meaningless. She had a half hour to sunbathe, and got right down to it. No big deal at all. Only an American hick like me, raised in the hinterland amid humorless cornfed religious personages, could possibly see any significance in an act of simple nothingness.

But I decided to sit elsewhere and drink my beer, lest I dwell for too long on the shortcomings of my homeland, because once you get started, where to stop?

The real reason French women have stopped sunbathing topless at The Guardian's "Fashion Blog"

... "Globalisation and Americanisation of women's portrayal and sexiness in France has pushed away gentle (and generally harmless) French eroticism towards porno, frontal, hyper-sexualised consciousness," she says. "Nudist, beach-like freedom is not what it used to be ... breasts no longer feel innocent or temporarily asexual."

The Big Four Bridge is rather Dutch, as we all should be.

Given the level of equity afforded multiple transportation modes on Dutch streets, the Netherlands is often used by NAC and many others as an example of more sensible urban planning and design. Just as often, even those who recognize the practical value of such planning and design lament that, though it's a good idea, it just can't be done here. It's as if we believe the Dutch are somehow inherently superior and thus managed to avoid the negative impact of car-centric design altogether via some sort of secret, a priori knowledge passed genetically from mother to daughter. That sort of "can't do it here" pronouncement, however, says far more about us than it ever did about the Dutch.

Indeed, the Netherlands, like cities and countries around the world and certainly our own, initially pursued auto-centric design in its recovery and rebuilding from World War II. Below is a 1960s street scene from Assen, a small city of 67,000 in the northeastern Netherlands. It may as well be New Albany.

It was around the time of this photo that the Dutch began comprehending the problems they had inadvertently created for themselves, the same problems encountered in New Albany and the Louisville metro every day. What started as localized response in several towns and cities - they moved household furniture into the streets to reclaim them for people in some places - in the 70s became a national movement perhaps best exemplified by the name of a prominent activist group: Stop the Child Murder.

By the time I first visited some 20 years later in the mid-90s, the Netherlands to which we now point had largely already been coaxed from what some there, too, had believed to be streets too far gone. Below is a shot of the same street in 2007, where approximately 9,000 bicycles per day pass through.

I was reminded of this very recent history as a practical rather than miraculous matter while strolling with a childhood friend (and hundreds of others) across the Big Four Bridge last Thursday. It's arguably the most significant piece of public infrastructure in our metro area in decades, again proving that if you simply provide people a reasonable pedestrian and cycling alternative, they will use it here just like in the Netherlands and pretty much everywhere else. Safer, more sustainable, and more vibrant streets and street life - and stronger, more resilient communities - are possible and even probable if we would just approach transportation pragmatically. Acknowledge mistakes and move on.

Though there are design gems aplenty owing to a few decades of experience, the Netherlands is best used not as an example of a very specific planning strategy but as a more general mindset. The infrastructure in the latter photo is more functional, less expensive, and easier to build and maintain than that of the earlier one and, as always, thinking is free. We have more than enough talent and money. We just have to decide that people deserve a chance to adapt and thrive.

More comparison photos and information about "Assen Verandert - Oude en Nieuwe Stadsgezichten" (translates as "Assen Changes - Old and New City Sights"), the book from which they were taken, can be found here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Clinging to the Same Stories.

"America's seismic demographic shift is upending life in our suburbs, cities and our popular culture. So why are we still clinging to the same stories to make sense of these changes?"

Maybe it's encroaching middle age, a broader mix of world events, or just another car driving the right way on a wrong way street, but that last bit about clinging has been a theme of late. Preexisting frames are tough to beat. Not beating them, though, means you are beat.

When Our Kids Own America, By Gene Demby (NPR) 

Brooklyn Park, Minn., which sits just to the northwest of Minneapolis and hugs the Mississippi River, was once the quintessential American suburb: Pretty sleepy. Midwestern. Mostly white. Jesse Ventura, the garrulous former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler, used to be the city's mayor. It was the childhood stomping grounds of a young Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion. The city’s annual festival is called “Tater Daze,” a nod to its potato farm origins. 

The Wonder Years could have been set in Brooklyn Park. 

Over the past two decades, though, the city has undergone the kind of transformation that’s changing life in so many American suburbs. In 1990, around nine in 10 people in Brooklyn Park were white. By 2010, nearly half the town’s residents were people of color. People in the surrounding area started referring derisively to the town as “Brooklyn Dark.” 

Many longtime — mostly white — residents were either moving out or resisting the tide of newcomers. As the shift got underway in the mid-’90s, a white local bar owner spoke up at a City Council hearing: "If you come from a different perspective or a different place, don't bring those standards to Brooklyn Park.” A different perspective. Lurking just beneath those words is an unspoken stake of ownership: this place is ours

This pattern seems familiar by now: “they” invade, there’s tension, many of “us” leave, whether it’s white folks gentrifying a brown community or brown folks ethno-fying a white one. And as long as the dichotomy was just that stark — as long as white folks and people of color could reliably play the roles of “we” and “they” — the pattern was easy to understand. But what’s happening to the “quintessential American suburb” echoes what’s happening to our classic “Chocolate Cities” like Oakland, Calif., Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Ga., and what’s happening in hip-hop and pop music. That old story is starting to get complicated.

Satisfaction in Europe.

You want to know what's crazy about this poll? Rostock and Leipzig both are located in the former East Germany. In 1989, it is doubtful either would have topped such a list.

This means there is hope yet for New Albany. The only question is whether the 25 years have started already ... because if they haven't, I'm looking at the age of 78 before this starts making sense.

Which is the most satisfied city in Europe? (Guardian)

Residents of 79 cities were polled on what they thought about various aspects of their lives. Our interactive chart shows how many were satisfied with their city's healthcare, cleanliness, noise levels and more

Sunday, July 27, 2014

From Königsberg to Kaliningrad, but not back again, though maybe ...

The building to the rear, which never has been used, testifies to the vitality of one-party rule. Give Floyd County Democrats a chance to copy it, and they it will be standing where the Reisz building is now.

Given the pervasiveness of geographical ignorance, Kaliningrad's existence probably is unknown to most Americans. Given the ubiquity of historical ... well, that Kaliningrad once was Königsberg, and much of what is now Poland was Germany before WWII are two other facts obscured by the need to dine sumptuously at Zaxby's.

Never mind.

I mean, literally.

Resurrecting Königsberg: Russian City Looks to German Roots, by Susanne Beyer in Kaliningrad, Russia (Spiegel Online International)

The Allies bombed the Prussian city of Königsberg into the ground in 1944. Residents of what is today the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, a desolate Soviet landscape, are considering rebuilding the city center to reflect some of its historical German architecture.

Not you, too: "Why Conservatives Should Love the City."

That's okay, my conservative brethren. Don't pay any attention to this.

Please continue living just the way you are, where you are.

Pretty please.

Why Conservatives Should Love the City, by Michael Hendrix (The American Conservative)

... While the country is growing urban, conservatives are going rural. They desire to live in places that are losing population relative to the rest of America. For a while, conservatives may benefit from a preference for being spread out. But in the long run, it will be difficult to buck this trend and keep a solid electoral and cultural foothold. The growing share of urban Americans will be a ringing death knell for a strong conservative showing in national elections.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Multitudinous farmers market. Zero permanent infrastructure.

It's the Saturday morning Dane County Farmers Market in Madison, Wisconsin.

It surrounds the state capitol on all four sides, and both wares and merriment spill into surrounding streets.

Note the complete absence of permanent infrastructure.

As in, absolutely none. Not even a Port-A-Let.

And the farmers market in Madison is jammed tight with people.

This is because of the quality of the market itself, nothing more.

Someone tell Develop New Albany, please.

Maybe we can use that $300,000 where it's really needed.

You'll know it's City Hall when a bunch of people are standing outside smoking.

On Thursday there was a crew working here ...

... and another one here, in the middle.

Why suddenly does there seem to be the end to decades of neglect? The official answers are here:

Reisz Furniture Building: Cautious optimism?

... if the city DOES wish to (a) ever do something, and (b) take ever credit for doing something, that certain something should be two-way "completed" streets downtown, as soon as possible, over Caesar's sedated, bound and gagged body if necessary, because a modernized street grid for all users is the one way that the the city can help ALL the downtown stakeholders, and not merely some of them.

But wait: Maybe the city actually is doing something in this instance. Is the developer moving forward, at least in part, owing to an assurance that when finished, the Reisz's offices will be leased by the city, to become a new City Hall?

This would make sense, given that downtown's two most valued recreational areas lie close at hand: The YMCA, as well as the spa we dare not speak the name of, aloud, for fear of the backlash.

What's going on in the backroom, anyway?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Robert Pastrick gives back to East Chicago. What a role model ...

$108 million, $108 thousand ... it's astonishingly numerical, this mentoring.

Pastrick pays back portion of money owed to EC, by Teresa Auch Schultz (Post-Tribune)

After more than a decade of corruption, voter fraud, numerous legal battles and the downfall of a long-serving mayor, East Chicago finally saw on Thursday a small portion of the $24 million Robert Pastrick and his cronies took from taxpayers.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined with East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland to announce the state was returning $331,000 to the city, $145,417 of which came directly from Pastrick, the former mayor.

The amount is just a small portion of the $108 million judgment that a federal judge ruled several years ago that Pastrick must pay, but Zoeller praised its return as giving citizens something concrete.

“It’s more than just a verbal pat on the back,” Zoeller said.

The NABC Weekend: Music at the park, Prohibition at the Amphitheater and the unknown bicycle race.

Last week's Ben Miller Band show at Bicentennial Park was widely praised. Shown above is how great things can happen when music and beer meet. Accordingly, let's see what the calendar shows for the coming weekend.

FRIDAY the 25th

Tonight (Friday, July 25), New Albany’s Bicentennial Park Summer Concert Series features the Junk Yard Dogs, and Production Simple offers this synopsis:

Junk Yard Dogs is a soul/R&B band from Louisville. A chance meeting between bassist Eric Makowski and drummer/spirit animal Van Campbell at the fabled Air Devil’s Inn spurred the formation of the group. It quickly assembled a band and moved into Smoketown, where the band has incubated and carved out their signature sound of B-side soul classics and dance originals.

As usual, NABC will offer Progressive Pints to accompany the show at Bicentennial Park. Also on Friday, roughly one block from Bicentennial Park, Bank Street Brewhouse will be open and pouring, and at this juncture, permit me to offer a quote from our August media kit.

In May, NABC announced the suspension of its Bank Street Brewhouse kitchen, and shortly thereafter, a deal was reached to bring the Big Four Burgers mobile trailer to BSB on Fridays, concurrent with the Bicentennial Park Concert Series. Unfortunately, Big Four Burgers has been unable to staff the trailer on a regular basis, so henceforth, we’ll be moving in a different direction. We understand that it takes time to build a new program, and the effort at BSB will continue.

Wick's has stepped into the breach: Be advised that if you call Wick's for pizza delivery to Bank Street Brewhouse, Friday evenings or any other time, you'll receive a 20% discount on your order. Perhaps the Big Four burger trailer will be back some day. It was a fine idea, but not all ideas pan out.

Also on Friday evening, you will not be able to enjoy craft beer or wine at the Seussical the Musical performance at New Albany's Riverfront Amphitheater.

Seussical performances this weekend will be alcohol-free.

I've been informed that the city of New Albany has asked the organizers to refrain from offering alcoholic beverages for the Seussical event, so if I mentioned it to you recently, please recalibrate and know that the musical will go on as originally planned, without our participation.

What the heck; my time's worth nothing, but of course you are heartily encouraged to attend a performance of Seussical, which take place on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. New Albany RiverStage is trying to make a necessary point that if the amphitheater is used for quality events, people will come, and improvements will be justified. Of course, life's always improved with better beer ... just not this time.

SATURDAY the 26th

NABC will take part in the Fifth Annual GnawBrew Beer, Art and Music Festival, which is set in the rustic hills of Brown County, Indiana at eXplore Brown County/Valley Branch Paintball Retreat, and brings together local home-brewers, wine makers, local and regional professional breweries and beer connoisseurs along with Hoosier artists and musicians.

Tony Beard, NABC's graphics-wizard-in-residence, is attending the 2014 Art & Ale Biergarten in Monticello, Indiana. The fest is being organized by Flat12 brewer Sean Manahan.

SUNDAY the 27th

No, you're not the only one who knew next to nothing about it.

The New Albany Criterium is a flat six-corner criterium course in the Heart of Historic New Albany. The Start/Finish will be near the intersection of Pearl and Market Street. The crit course is 0.7 miles in length and is run counter-clockwise. The race is sanctioned by USA Cycling. Sponsored by Clarksville Schwinn and PB Whayne.

Starting a noon, cyclists and observers can refuel at Bank Street Brewhouse. Bring a picnic basket, pack in carry-outs or order delivery, and pair our Beers of Proven Merit with the very best food from local eateries ... well, at least those open on Sunday.

Always remember that Indiana does have carry-out beer sales on Sunday: At craft breweries. For carry-out wine on Sunday, visit our friends at River City Winery or Indiana's many other artisanal wine makers.

To be reminded of why Indiana's alcohol laws governing beer temperature and daily availability came to be, visit the Indy Star: Will Indiana ever expand Sunday alcohol and cold beer sales?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

ON THE AVENUES: Ice Cold WCTU (A Modest Proposal).

ON THE AVENUES: Ice Cold WCTU (A Modest Proposal).

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Once upon a time in downtown New Albany, a house stood in the space between Bank Street Brewhouse and the Ricke & Associates agency to the north. If there is an extant photo somewhere, I haven’t seen it, although it is safe to assume an appearance somewhat like that of the Ricke house itself, or the Fox law office on the other side, probably positioned close by the street in traditional row house fashion.

Before the house was demolished around 1955, it had been used for a very long time by New Albany’s branch of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. In case you didn’t know, the WCTU’s mission was to create a “sober and pure world” through “abstinence, purity and evangelical Christianity.” City guides dating from 1954 all the way back to 1919 identify the house as the WCTU chapter’s headquarters.

The following was written in 1937.

In the year 1852 Mr. John Crawford built and sold to Mr. Silas Day the large brick house on the west side of Bank Street now owned by the W.C.T.U. This was an example of a New Albany home of the better class in the 1850s and 1860s.

We don’t know when the WCTU bought the house, although in 1882, New Albany’s chapter merited mention in the “Minutes of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of the State of Indiana at the Annual Meeting.”

The New Albany WCTU’s zenith was in the early 1900s, during its ultimately successful campaign for statewide and later national Prohibition. Fortunately, Prohibition’s myriad and well-documented failures served to discredit America’s teetotalers far better than my puny words ever could. Today, the craft brewing revolution flourishes in New Albany on the very same spot where beer’s enemies once conspired.

That’s delicious, and it’s why we need a monument to victory over the prohibitionists.


The project I’m proposing is called Ice Cold WCTU, and it aims to provide a unique, fully functional entrance to Lloyd’s Landing, the NABC “beer garden” adjacent to Bank Street Brewhouse. Lloyd’s Landing is named for the late Lloyd Wimp, who I’m confident would have enthusiastically approved of this idea.

Ice Cold WCTU is designed to be multi-faceted. It addresses the history and architectural heritage of New Albany, provides a conceptual “memorial” suitable for becoming a genuine tourist attraction, addresses themes of art and sustainability, and will be the only thing like it, anywhere.

That’s because the WCTU helped bring about Prohibition, and Prohibition almost killed brewing in America – and so who better than a local brewer belonging to the new, flourishing “craft” generation to commemorate the killjoy villainy of the WCTU?

The memorial plaque might read:

“In a house once standing here, New Albany’s chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union advocated for Prohibition and abstinence from ‘Demon Alcohol.’ But Prohibition proved to be a disaster, and so it is vitally important that we remember the WCTU’s efforts favoring Prohibition, all the better for us to reject Prohibition, now and forever.”

Here’s how it might work.

At the entrance to Lloyd’s Landing, facing Bank Street, we’ll “trace” the front of the former WCTU house. This structure will take the form of pergolas (on the Lloyd’s Landing side, to eventually be linked to a shelter house or patio improvements) and an artistic façade or “false front” rising higher on the street side, constructed mostly of salvaged and recycled building materials. Because the front would mimic the roofline of the (an) old house, there’ll be at least the suggestion of a restored streetscape.

The facing will be representational, not an exact reproduction. It might be painted, or not. Vines or hops might grow on it, or not. Gaps could be complemented with shutters, window frames and other architectural mementoes, or not. It is to be artistic, not a duplicate. I envision an interpretive plaque, as worded above, as well as a life-sized, all-weather cutout bearing the photographic image of WCTU members – the Wild Women of the WCTU, next to whom visitors can pose for selfies.

But there’s even more.


Bank Street Brewhouse’s fully enclosed, former outdoor patio area already has been dubbed the WCTU Reading Room, and there is just enough unused wall space therein to redeploy as a museum, with exhibits explaining the WCTU, Prohibition, and their deleterious effects on civilized society.

The grand opening can be preceded by a community-wide art contest, in which local artists riff on a theme of fundamentalist zealotry. For the occasion, we might clear the former dining room of furniture and display the art there. Behind the art, through the window, lies the brewery, and if those machines kill fascists, surely they eradicate prohibitionists as well.

Ice Cold WCTU simultaneously pushes so many red hot buttons that I’m hard pressed to count them all.

It restores a streetscape, references New Albany’s history and recognizes the city’s architectural heritage.

It serves as a permanent art project and tourist attraction.

It provides a focal point to rebranding Bank Street Brewhouse, something we need in the absence of a kitchen, giving us a place to begin or end brewery tours.

Best of all, every aspect of it is factually verifiable. It is non-fiction. To return yet again to the words of Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." There needs to be a memorial and a museum to the WCTU and Prohibition, because they must not be forgotten.

Now all I have to do is figure out a way to finance Ice Cold WCTU. If ever there was a Kickstarter project capable of succeeding, this is it.

Anyone know a grant writer?

As for the recycled materials, paging Mr. Steve Resch …

Steve, if you’re reading …

Must reading: "How Christianity Shapes Louisville's Coffee Culture," by Gabe Bullard.

Ever wonder why "Louisville's coffee scene has an undeniable undercurrent of Christianity that isn’t the case nationally"?

Gabe Bullard explains, in depth. While reading, I was reminded of various other implications of coffee, and Wolfgang Schivelbusch's thoughts on the matter in his book, Tastes of Paradise, as summarized in this e-notes excerpt.

Called “the Great Soberer,” coffee became a symbol of the emerging bourgeoisie, who were delighted by its stimulating effects. Conservatives blamed it for the deterioration of society and said it was dangerous.

Coffee came to Europe from the Arab world, and initially was known as the "wine of Islam." The simple observation that a caffeinated beverage differs from an alcoholic one suffices to explain how coffee became an instrument to advance tee-totalling, as opposed to intoxication -- not necessarily from religious motivations, but because sober workers would produce greater profits than drunk workers.

Obviously, these are not Bullard's considerations. Rather, he contributes substance to clarify innuendo, and as a coffee drinker and frequent patron of the Quills branch in New Albany, I appreciate the effort. I'm a pagan, fanatical, unbelieving atheistic threat to the established order ... and I've always felt welcome at Quills. This is as it should be.

How Christianity Shapes Louisville's Coffee Culture, by Gabe Bullard (WFPL)

... It’s unlikely the third wave of coffee would have skipped Louisville. Had Sunergos and Quills not brought it here, someone would have. Just like with Heine Brothers. Had Mays not brought better coffee to Louisville in 1994, Starbucks would have in 1999. But the market is driven by those who act first and act well. In the case of Louisville, with third wave coffee, it was devout Christians, driven by an interest in coffee and mandated by their faith to work as hard as possible.

New Albany's new slogan: "Truck Through City" ... Part 24: Seven street destroyers in five minutes.

I walked outside my house and took these seven photos from 11:58 a.m. to 12:03 p.m. on Wednesday, July 23. They just kept roaring past.

But we have no problems, according to City Hall.