Monday, December 31, 2007

Daytonology Man & Women of the Year 2007

Dayton Most Metro has an excellent Dayton Wish List for 2008. Very little to add to it, except a wish for a cultural revolution in the Dayton, where people would turn from an anti-urban bias to appreciating citys and city culture. Yer humble host believes the greatest problem the Dayton area faces is not necessarily economics and leadership, but the people who live here,

With that in mind here is Daytonology's Man and Women of the Year, as a way to feature role models of the kind of spirit the people in this area so often lack.

The envelope please.

The winners are:

Leon Bey

Joanne Granzow

Maribeth Graham

....the founders of Freinds to Save the Arcade.

Leon Bey would have been in the running at least for those Gem City Circle Tours he was leading; historical walking tours of the downtown. Note that it wasn't Preservation Dayton, it wasn't Dayton History, it was a retired librarian who was doing this on his own initiative. And as a history buff I really appreciate this.

And it was on one of those walking tours that Tony Staub, standig outside the Arcade, invited Leon and his tour group in for a look. And asked for help.

Leon could well have replied "Gee, Tony, sorry, I'm just a lowely retired librarian", and moved on.

But he didn't.

Leon engaged Maribeth and Jeanne to help form the Friends to Save the Arcade. These two ladies then energized their network of freinds and volunteers to help obtain support and interest, and were able to tap into connections and resources that led to the opening of the Arcade during the last Urban Nights.

These two ladies are excellent examples of the kind of citizens this area needs more of; enthusiastic, postive, and whats more, people with a vision of a what the city could be. They are also suburbanities but see themselves as part of the greater whole that is Dayton, the antitheses of the rejectionist/"Scary Dayton"/tear-it-all-down negativity one sees too much from suburbanites and city residents.

The fate of the Arcade is still uncertain. But a local developer is in negotiation with the owner to aquire the property for a redevelopment.

Would this have happened without Leon Bey not wanting to save the Arcade, and Maribeth Graham and Jean Granzow not agreeing to join him? And without the publicitiy and interest the FSA was able to generate?

One might never know.

But the point is that these three gave a damn and said No! to pervasive negativity, apathy and cyncism.

And thats why they are Man and Women of the Year.

(I dont have good pix of all three, but here is a newspaper clipping of Leon in the Arcade)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Russell Partnership: an Alternative to the Hollow City

Here’s yet another example from Louisville on urban regeneration, one that is 180 degrees opposite of the demolish and land-bank approach being considered for Dayton.

Russell was probably the worst neighborhood in Louisville, if you could even call it a neighborhood. It was nearly abandoned. Lots of empty land, abandoned houses and stores, a partially boarded-up Section 8 housing project, and a derelict cemetery as the only park. The place had high crime, high vacancy (20% in some tracts), and high unemployment, with a very high labor force non-participation rates.

Yet, as early as the mid 1980s there was some small movement toward revival. This really kicked off during the 1990s. with the development of a partnership between University of Louisville and a collection of non-profits and churches in the neighborhood. Other colleges were brought in, including the University of Kentucky’s architecture school, some government agencies, and the local construction industry, in a coalition of sorts to redevelop the neighborhood.

This differs from the UD efforts in Dayton, as this neighborhood was distant from UofL, and the agenda was not gentrification, but affordable housing (at first), community building, and neighborhood revival. Maybe a better comparison would be Wright-Dunbar, but there was no university involvement with that project as far as I know, and I don't think there was a social services component.

Below is an aerial showing Russell’s’ location vis a vis downtown Louisville and the west urban renewal area. Since Russell had some of the oldest housing remaining in the city and was significant to local black history it was made a historic district, which required State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) review of infill designs.
The map also shows the Village West section 8 project, which was a half-vacant crack den, and the Phillip Morris redevelopment. Phillip Morris is closed cigarette factory (Kool, Marlboro) site that is going to be a mixed used development. The same architecture/engineering/planning firm that did The Greene and Easton is doing this planning/design for this.

Housing redevelopment started off at the eastern end of the Western Cemetery (renamed Pioneer Park). This was called “Graves End”. This development is about 10 years old now. These houses went from $49,000 to $59,000 back in the mid 1990s but are being resold for $85,000 or more. All the units have garages in back and some have full basements.
For some floor and site plans and more pix see the SUN (Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods) Graves End web page (on a personal note, two former classmates of mine where involved with this project, one as a professor at UofK, the other as a grad student). The original concept was to redesign the park and put in a modern version of a Louisville pedestrian street for the houses, but there was no money for that.

More housing facing the cemetery, mostly new but also with some of the original houses on the site. I guess these are examples of non-shotgun house urban housing in the city, possibly from the 1870s or 1880s.

A close up of the infill, showing the attention to detail, like the use of stone as an accent, and “gingerbread” at the gable (but not an “archeological” copy of gingerbread trim). Here’s another SUN project, away from the park showing how parts of the neighborhood had to be replatted to provide useable lot sizes, the mix of new and old housing, streetscape composition, and the conversion of a liquor store and neighboring crack house into apartments.

I can see something like this being done in Dayton, but what I really like is that they did something nice with that concrete block thing next to the corner store.

And another SUN project, showing a floor plan and elevation. Note there is always an interest in making the houses “fit” in terms of aesthetics.

Some other examples of new infill housing in Russell. There is new construction and remodels all over the neighborhood now. Its remarkable to see this area come back if one knew it before.
This is I think a pro-bono project from a local developer and architect in partnership with the Louisville Urban League: Project Rebound. Not too much a fan of this design, though i like the front porch idea. Yet more infill. These are all brick, rather than just the brick facade like in the earlier pix.
Apparently this project really is working. A news report from the Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator:

Urban areas see biggest gains in property value
Public initiatives spurring private investment, officials say

Businessman Argie Dale, however, believes the market is driving some of the new growth.

Dale said he began developing homes in Russell for low-income families in the late 1990s using tax credits. But over the past three years, he has developed five properties there worth around $300,000 without such incentives. "It just shows you that there are people who are able to afford these types of homes," and there is a market for them, said Dale, who lives in Russell. "And if we had more land, we could build more."

Brockton Edwards, a general contractor who also lives in the neighborhood and has built homes in Russell, agreed there is a demand for houses costing more than $125,000 that didn't exist a decade ago.

People with ties to the neighborhood are choosing to move there and want a house similar to what they can buy in other parts of Louisville, he said.

James Freeman said he and his wife moved into one of those houses about two years ago from the Shawnee neighborhood after considering houses in eastern Jefferson County and Southern Indiana.
"I liked the location," said Freeman, 60, a retired Colgate employee. "It kind of puts you in the middle of everything."

Finally the Village West project. Amazingly enough this rather barracks-esque design won an award when built (design was selected via a juried competition). One has to wonder about architects sometimes.
It was brought back via a $37M renewal project,. Though not in Russell proper, it was seen as a gateway to the neighborhood, thus the Russell Partnership got involved in helping facilitate a renewal. The mayor also played a part.

We've seen it before, but here it is again: Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, which should be pretty interesting when the get the exhibits set up.
The Russell story by one of the players, who lays out the failures (and there were failures) and the successes of the effort (the B/W pix and drawings above are from the book) Available at the Wright State University library (WSU gets a brief mention in the book). One of the things that you don’t physically see (but is in the book) was there was a big social services/education/capacity building component to this, including how-to sessions about homeownership, mortgages, saving for down payments, etc, as well as other things like education, job training, apprenticeship programs, entrepreneurship and business skill training etc.

This was not seen at first as strictly a bricks-and-mortar effort. Reading about this it sounds like how the military approaches new fighters or tanks, as a weapons system, developed via a systems/program management approach. In this case applied to community development, but without an overarching program manager.

Which was a big lesson, too. This was not a top down, centralized approach, but more of a partnership.
Interesting stuff, and in Louisville's case it seems to be working, but I wonder how applicable in Dayton?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Stone Soup Cafe CLOSED!

According to Donna, commenting at Esrati, Stone Soup Cafe is closed.

Check out this part:

... A busybody in the neighborhood with an ax to grind badgered the health department (remember the sink fiasco??) then the zoning board until the owner threw his hands up and said, “OK…you win.”

One wonders about what kind of axe is it that causes someone to try to kill a business in struggling Dayton neighborhood.

For a look at the grand opening, to see what could have been, click here.

Oh Well.

The Oldest City House in Dayton

What is the oldest house in Dayton on its original location?

It seems it's an old farmhouse on the northern edge of the Westwood neighborhood, dating from the very early 1800s. There may be other old farmhouse out in the neighborhoods (according to the auditors records theres is one in Ohmer Park from the 1840s)

But what's the oldest city house? The Newcom Tavern has been relocated, and an old house from the 1820s was recently torn down for the new Avis office.

Local tradition says that the Clegg House is the oldest house, dating from 1827 or 28. Looking at the facade on First Street one sees an impressive cube house with nice limestone facade with rusticated base and an ionic pilasters. I would date this later than the 1820s based visual evidence in the Lutzenberger collection and extant houses in the older parts of the Oregon.

To the rear, however, one sees these appendages to the Clegg House. What if one of these, particularly the two story one, was not an appendage but a frestanding house at one time? One can see some modifications (like the horizontal band windows) and what looks like half wood/half brick construction.
However, going around to the front one does see a facade that looks "old", due to the roof line running parallel to the street and the zero lot line construction.
Comparing this to some of the oldest Oregon houses, one sees the window arrangement and central "gap" matches the facades of some early double houses, and there is a central chimney that might have been shared by two sides of the house. The door is also on the end, like some early doubles.
A typological analyses showing how this might have been either a modified double, or a single borrowing the typology of a double.

So, the oldest city house (not farm house) in Dayton could well be the "Clegg House", not the big house on First but the rear "wing".

Dayton Rephotography: Oldest Houses

The secretive Dayton Bicycle Club.

Northwest corner of Jefferson and First

The Bicycle Club was remodeled using a Spanish Revival style, but dates to the 1850s, making it one of the very oldest buildings downtown. Interesting to see what happened to its neighbor, wich is an old I house with attic fenestration similar to the Bicycle club. It was wrapped in an early 20th century one story commercial structure. This was somewhat common downtown, but all examples of this treatment have been lost.

The corner house on the second set is the "Clegg House", the only example of a cube house surviving downtown. This was a favored houseform for the Dayton bourgouis in the antebellum era. The Lutzenberger Collection is filled with examples of cube houses. The best regional example is the Lanier House in Madison, Indiana, now a house museum.

Note the two houses at the far left, which are examples of the second generation of urban fabric, built after the log cabin era. One of these was the oldest house in the city, dating to the early 1820s. It survived, heavily modified, until very recently, being torn down for an Avis rent-a-car place.

For a good idea of what old Dayton looked like one should visit nearby Germantown, as that village has many examples of old houses and commercial buildings that are very similar to what the Lutzenberger Collection shows of Dayton.

Friday, December 28, 2007

More Louisville Urban Regeneration

A collection of urban regeneration examples from Louisville.

Louisville has a strong back-to-the city “historic district” movement that revived a few older neighborhoods. What’s interesting is renewed interest in the closer-in areas. In a way this is an extension of the urban renewal concept, but without the wholesale clearances that wiped out entire sections of the city

This will look at some of the areas just east of downtown. We’ve seen the Phoenix Hill shotgun revival in an earlier post

Liberty Green

Formerly the Clarksdale public housing project (built in the 1930s), this is a new housing area. The name is a pun on Liberty Street, which used to be Green Street. We are fairly close to downtown Louisville, as a skyscraper can be seen in the distance.

Off camera to the left is the Medical Center, which is expanding eastward. Medical Center was a product of the urban renewal area, locating most of the cities hospitals and the UofL medical school in one district

Market Street Area

This is a sub-area of Phoenix Hill. This (along with Portland and Butchertown) is one of the oldest areas left in the city since urban renewal cleared out nearly all of the remaining antebellum and Civil War era building stock.

Market Street itself is developing a gallery/restaurant/coffee shop/antique shop mix as the next commercial gentrification strip, since the Frankfort Avenue and Bardstown Road areas are so heavily developed. You can see an example of this in the corner shop with the red star.

Two old buildings on a side street just off Market. Old maps show the church as the “German Church”. But note that the commercial building is being remodeled (new windows). The alley is Nanny Goat Strut Alley. Billy Goat Strut Alley is a block to the north (alleys are named in the older parts of Louisville)
From the rear one can see the renovation better. Big windows on the upper floors are to take in a fabulous view of the downtown skyline
The same street, but note the building to the far left...
...a nice bit of new construction. Modern design, but fits in well.

Next door…
…is this modernist corner building. Across the street is Liberty Green


(from the historic marker)

This historically black community began to flourish following end of slavery in 1865, when thousands of African Americans moved to Louisville. Shotgun-type houses on closely spaced streets and alleys allowed both black and white landowners to profit from the dense settlement. Washington Spradling, Jr., a prominent African American, owned vast real estate in area.

(Reverse) Historic Area - Many in Smoketown worked in tobacco warehouses as cutters, processors, and haulers. Community had one of city's first African American public schools, founded 1874. Smoketown is only post-Civil War neighborhood settled mainly by African Americans that remains in city of Louisville. Presented by Louisville and Jefferson County African American Heritage Committee, Inc.

(historical marker isn’t entirely accurate as blacks lived in this area before the Civil War, working as slaves in the brickyards).

This area is just starting to see infill. Here is a particularly interesting example as I can’t tell if its new or old, as the remodeling is just so good in keeping the old architectural detail, or new construction is so accurate a match to 19th century vernacular housing.

Note the attention to detail. A lot of old houses have iron fences in front, separating the house and yard from the sidewalk. With these they put in a new iron fence, duplicating the 19th century approach.

The rear of the units. These are two-flats, AKA double deckers. Actually a pretty rare building type in Louisville from what I recall

And to the side, more of the same (with a huge old grain elevator of some sort in the background)

And, like in Phoenix Hill, copies of the old shotgun house style.

Outside the Central Area

This apartment building is on a road leading out of the inner part of the city, showing how new construction is starting to work more with the street, creating a street wall, emphasing corners, and putting the parking to the rear or on lower floors.

Next, a look at the Russell area west of downtown, which used to be the worst neighborhood in the city.

"The Left has the best music..."

So said the Albert Finney character (?) in Under The Volcano (or so I'm told).

I don't know if this line is really in the movie or book, but it sure does sound good. And, when it comes to topical song, the left really does have the best music. I was thinking about this driving back to Dayton, listening to that new Springsteen album (Xmas present).

This goes way back, at least to the old Industrial Workers of the World, who recognized the value of song for propaganda purposes, publishing their Little Red Songbook. In this case it was often radical lyrics set to familiar hymns or secular tunes.

Then, in the 1930s, one sees the more familiar lefty music from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Personally I am not a fan of a lot of this, particularly the singing style. The best covers of Seeger and Guthrie seem to come from across the pond. Examples being Dick Gaughan doing an intense cover of "Ludlow Massacre" , with a steady war-drum bodhran intro, and The Oysterband covering "Bells of Rhymny", with some shouting voiceover.

Which brings to mind some of the differences in how political song is done in the US vs. the UK and Ireland. For me, too often the American singer-songwriter style sounds too plaintive, whining, and mild. The English, Scots, and Irish, however, have a certain bite in their music, a certain fierceness and spleen in the way they perform it and sing it, which appeals to me.

Probably the exception to this are the US coal miner songs. But since these mostly come from Appalachia, they are closer to British Isles sources due to the survival of ballads and sacred music . Sometimes these are taken back across the pond and reinterpreted by performers like Billy Bragg (doing a version of Which Side Are You On, based on an old hymn, which may itself have crossed the Atlantic from England)

Bragg has often dealt with economic or political topics; examples are "Between The Wars" (one of my all-time favorite political songs), a great musical manifesto for the social-democracy mixed with a bit of pacifism, and retooling an old folk song from the Jacobite rebellion to comment current events in 'Thatcherites".

In the UK there seems to a musical interest in economic themes and generalized political comment. Good examples are the work of Ewan McColl, whose Ballad of Accounting (influenced by Brecht) was covered by the aforementioned Dick Gaughan, and more recently by Irish singer Karen Casey. Another political English folky who comments on socio-economic things is Robb Johnson, writing about class issues in the bitter "Boxing Day", and using a shipwreck as a metaphor for the perils of laissez faire in "Herald of Free Enterprise"

You’d even hear this political turn in non-folk music coming from the UK, especially with the advent of punk, the rise of the BNP/National Front, the cruise missile controversy, Thatcher, and the miners strike. Britain was turning into a political pop hotbed between, say, 1976-77 and 1987-88, generating a lot of music hitting on political themes.

The political style seemed to really infuse the music scene: minor acts like the Redskins, post punk music from The Clash, Scritti Politti and Gang of Four, ska bands like English Beat and Specials, early Depeche Mode, folk rockers like Billy Bragg, Oysterband, and The Men They Couldn’t Hang, poppy dance bands like Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Pet Shop Boys, Bronski Beat, and so forth. The Bronksi Beat was a particularly interesting case as they were the first (and so far only) band to do alternative/post punk songs on gay political & social themes.

Some of these UK acts didn’t just comment on conditions in Britain, but also on what was up in the US at that time, like Mark Knopfler's Telegraph Road. (though Billy Joel did something similar with the uncharacteristic-for him- Allentown).

This political turn hit Australian music, too, with Midnight Oil and the excellent (and unknown in the USA) Weddings Parties Anything. The "Weddoes" were particularly good, mixing rock, folk, historical themes, and politics.

To be fair most of this was probably just riffing on and playing with political themes and imagery, more a political style, not intended as agit-prop. But that this was happening at all was quite entertaining and interesting.

In recent times one can still here powerful political music coming from the UK, like the excellent Community Music from Asian Dub Foundation, which mixes Caribbean and Indian influences with US rap. Fascinating stuff. And there are the folk-rock Levellers, who have sort of an anarchist angle in their first two albums.

Probably the only way an American could be jacked-in to this sound was via an underground: listening to albums at someone's apartment (which is how I found out about some of it) as it was fairly rare on the radio, unless one lived in a place like Northern California, where one heard a lot of political content via public radio and the commercial FM station out of San Francisco; the late lamented KQAK ("The Quake").

One of things I noticed when moving to Dayton is how this music was mostly off the airwaves here.

An example is the Scots singer/songwriter Dick Gaughan, who has a solid oeuvre of trad Scots and Irish music, but moved well to the left with the outstanding album "A Different Kind of Love Song", one of the best collections of its kind.

I was introduced to Gaughan via a public radio station in Sacramento putting his cover of Leon Rosselson's Stand Up For Judas on heavy rotation…a song you'd never hear on the air in Dayton. Dayton airplay for political folk was relegated to issues long ago and far away, like Jacobite fight songs and Irish rebel songs (which are still pretty good in their own way)

Cityfolk did bring Dick Gaughan to Dayton for a performance at Canal Street Tavern (I guess the audience liked his trad stuff but was unaware of his political turn). Being a big fan I had to go, and was immensely entertained when "Big Dick" opened the evening with a rousing version of the stirring "Revolution", amazingly enough a song written right here in the United States about 100 years ago.

It was a great night at CST

Later, a bit more on US political song.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Savage Inequalities

The Dayton Daily News reports on a new arts center opened as part of the Centerville schools. Centerville, being an exceptionally affluent school district.

Described as a mini-Shuster Center, it has a full featured theatre that exceeds the capacity of the Victoria downtown (does this mean the Dayton Ballet and Cityfolk can start scheduling shows outside of "scary" downtown)?

Everyone sees this as a good thing. Even Esrati has kind words.

Since I recently went to a benefit for Stivers, which has a performing arts program, I couldn't but helped be reminded of that situation. Stivers is apparently getting a remodeled and expanded facility (with the the help of state funds), but doesn't have the teachers anymore, due to budget cuts. Budget cuts because the district is too poor to afford the property taxes to pay for extras.

Frankly the situation brings to minde Jonathan Kozols' Savage Inequalities. How things are so radically unequal between urban and suburban schools, between minority and white schools.

I guess where I part company with most of the people in the Dayton region is that the locals see this ienquality of opportunity (not outcome) as good and natural and not to be questioned.

And, sure it's great to go that Stivers benefit as some sort of cool, hipster creative class event, doing good and all that, but do people ask hard questions why that event had to be held, while Centeville can afford a $7.1M arts facility?

If This Factory Was In Dayton....

...what would be it's fate? Long term abandonment? Demolition? Aborted renovation (like the stalled Merc?)

This is one of Louisville's landmark factories. The old American Standard plumbing fixtures plant (which also included a large brass foundry, which has been mostly torn down). The enitre plant, including this loft block, was going to be demolished.

The building is quite the landmark as it sits on a street leading in to the city, and the angle of the street, and building, causes the structure to read as a large mass blocking the street, from two direcions (north and south). This is a bit evident in the pix.
When the owner requested a demolition permit preservtionists sprang to action , registering strong opposition. The result is that the ownere is going to redevelop this as student loft housing for nearby University of Louisville.

Louisville developers (perhaps with some public help) have been pretty agressive in old factory conversions and reuse. Here is an example from the nearby Russell neighborhood, where an old trolly car barn is being turned into the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage

It would be pretty unsual to see "shed" buildings like this restored in Dayton.

Another example of the loft factory style in Louisville, also renovated into lofts, offices, or both
Unlike Dayton there is a growing recognition in Louisville of the signifigance of these relics of an earlier industrial era. Though they arn't historical, the relialization is there that that these structures contribute to the urban fabric and cultural landscape, to the look and feel of Louisville, and by their mass and setting become recognizable landmarks, whose loss diminishes the city.
(loft factory in Louisville's Germantown district)

This appreciation results in re-use consideration being given to old industrial structures outside of stereotypical downtown "loft districts, resulting in saves like the one at the top of this post.