One of my first thoughts when I first heard about the Harrison Square project two years ago was, “They’re putting it where?”  The west side of Ewing Street and surrounding two block area has to be one of the worst  areas in the downtown area.  To be fair, there are some property owners that have kept their properties up, but probably a similar amount have let ’em go.  Case in point, the houses south of the Jefferson Boulevard intersection.  The properties are up for sale, by the owner who lives in Indianapolis.  Since Ewing has been closed for utility work, the houses have had their windows busted out, plus one of the houses has had graffiti sprayed on the front of it.  This is probably because there is no traffic in the area so the chance of getting caught while engaging in such shenanigans is nil.

I have blogged about this area before, here and here.  A quick check with my contacts in the City government didn’t reveal anything.  The properties actually look like they’re on the verge of being torn down.  With all the heavy equipment in that area, I think it could easily be arranged.  The problem is, if this is pure and simple vandalism, unless there are severe structural problems with the houses, the City cannot step in and demolish them.  This means our multi-million dollar investment in that area will open on April 17th, 2009 across the street from boarded up, run-down houses.  It’s too bad the City didn’t have enough funds two years ago to acquire these properties as well.  Not so much so they could have developed them, but it could have avoided a situation such as this.

Let’s hope somone steps up and turns those properties into something complimentary to Harrison Square.

    

    

    

Previous AFW Posts concerning Ewing Street:
A Walk Down Ewing Street23rd October 2008
Another Demolition on Ewing Street? - 11th September 2008
Demolition on Ewing Street - 2nd July 2008
Ewing Street properties for sale – 11th March 2008

10 COMMENTS

  1. Stephen;

    I really don’t think this will be that big of a problem for the city. They have three options.

    1. After H.S. is up and running, the city could declare that this has made the neighboring properties more valuable. They could raise the taxes to the point that the owners would either develop them into something profitable or sell them to someone who will.

    2. If this fails, they could then declare this area blighted and threaten to raze the entire block. The property owner(s) will have two choices. First, they could spend a lot of money in court fighting this. Or, they could spend less than that and repair to a level that is acceptable by the city. I’d think they would choose the less costly approach.

    3. And if all else fails, they could try the Chinese method.
    http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2008/08/10/vanishing_act/

    • Hi Phil, It’s not so much a problem as it is just a gosh darn eye sore. I mean here we are, we build a great ballpark, approximately $25 million of investment, not counting what’s going into the rest of Harrison Square, only to have it realized across the street from this mess. What are visitors going to think? Plus, there’s the whole how safe does it make you feel angle? I’ll read about your Chinese method when I return home. Thanks for your comments! Remind me via email and I’ll add your blog to my blogroll. I keep forgetting. Have a Merry Christmas!

  2. I don’t think it would be proper for the city to simply acquire the properties. People to live there and for most upkeep is probably tied to having a lower socio-ecoomic status. To both help out the people that do live there and to preserve and create an environment that fits in with the stadium the city could offer grants and a tax abatement and allow those that live in the homes to fix them up. For those that are for sale or unoccupied I think it would be worth it for the city to buy a couple of properties, renovate them and put them back on the market.

    There is something nostalgic about living around a baseball stadium, I think the city needs to tap into that.

  3. Hi, Joshua. It isn’t proper for them to acquire them at this point of the game because I don’t think there is money available, and if there is, it should be held on to until things settle out economically. The other reason it isn’t proper/feasible currently is because the asking price is probably going to be through the roof.

    That said, acquiring properties and redeveloping them is something Redevelopment Department does. I think it would have been proper for the City to acquire the properties on the west side of Ewing. Earlier in this project, Scott Spaulding at the What’s Going Down(town) blog discovered that a few properties in that area had been purchased by a company in Bluffton that develops Convenience Stores. The public and a few government officials were in an uproar at the thought of a convenience store being built in that area or the one that is there being expanded.

    My point was that it was too bad the City didn’t have the funds to acquire the properties when they could have acquired them cheaply and all at once. In that respect, they could have had better control over how they are redeveloped. I also think the last thing that will contribute to those attending games’ perception of safety will be a bunch of boarded up, run down houses across the street. As to your point about housing, that’s what The Harrison (when it is built) and Phase 2 and 3 are for.

    Thank you for your comments – and welcome to the blog!

  4. Stephen;

    First of all, in all seriousness, I share your perception here. Having this type of eyesore next to H.S. is not good publicity. What I wonder is why the city didn’t simply buy these parcels befor H.S. started. I seriously doubt if the (then) asking price would have made a sizable difference in the total cost of the project.

    As a matter of fact, I’ll bet these properties could have been purchased for far less than what is now the eastern half of the H.S. area. Would it really have been so bad to move this project one or two blocks west? Think of all the land acquisition money (Belmont Liquors comes to mind) that would have been saved.

  5. Joshua;

    Your sentiments express what should be. Mine express more accurately the way things actually are.

    I’m reminded of that famous quote by RFK “Some people see a run-down property the way it is, and they work with the current owner to establish agreeable terms for purchasing it. Others see the way it could be, and they (government) simply take it.

  6. Hi Phil, The answer given when this question was put to the City early in the HS project was that a lack of funds contributed to not securing more property in the area. Plus, my impression was that certain Administration members felt they’d already pushed the limits in acquiring what they needed, let alone some that may not have been.

    Again, to clarify for everyone, I am more concerned about the side of Ewing facing the Harrison Square project area. I think that over time, the complete two blocks will sort itself out. There are some beautiful large houses in that neighborhood. I’d be interested to know how many are actually owner-occupied vs used for rentals. It’s always been my impression that the rental properties far out distance those occupied by their owners.

    Thanks for the comments, Phil! PS – I added your blog to the blogroll – cross another one off the list of things to do!

  7. Phil, One other thing I wanted to add, but hit the submit button before thinking it through, I agree that the time to acquire those properties has passed. The cost will prove to be too prohibitive now. I have no doubt the properties will be redeveloped into something, the question is what and how long will it take?

  8. Adding to Phil’s comments one of my landlords (RC) would say the city makes its own rules in dealing with him. Many outside observers close to the situation have made the same observation that someone(s) behind the scene would like the property to be put out of business (and he is willing to sell it…) which doesn’t seem smart because its a good tax paying property. I don’t fully understand the situation but my guess is its something ingrained in a department and nothing to do with any elected officials… more of a modus operandi perhaps.

    I noticed on my facebook that E. White heard that in the Phase 3 Harrison Square plans there is a grass lot where the Powers Hamburgers is at… I mean, sure, it can relocate. I guess we can all relocate.

  9. I doubt very much that at this stage, the developers are worried about anything other than getting The Harrison built. I don’t know where he heard his information from, but nothing has ever been released about phase two and three except for a very vague drawing of what the concept could look like. The City and or Barry Real Estate would first have to secure the land where Powers now sits before doing anything. There was a concept drawing of the complete Harrison Square project released in March, 2007 and may be viewed here:

    I remember at the time, it was stated that Power’s would remain where it’s at or be re-located at BRE/City’s expense as the drawing was a simple concept of the site in general. But, this so far down the road that it’s wide open at this point. I doubt they are even thinking/worried about it.

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