Park and High Streets, anchored by Mill Street to the south and the river on the north side, are interesting little beasts.
It's a mixture of low income housing, student housing, and soon-to-be-luxury housing. Some of the properties need serious attention, but there are also some real architectural gems tucked away on these streets.
There's a fully renovated low-income apartment complex that's fantastically maintained, some real architectural beauties hidden by overgrown yards, and several new projects popping up.
Perhaps most puzzling are the brand new townhomes being constructed at the terminus of Park Street, right on the river, right next to the abandoned mess of streets that used to give you access to 4th Street over the river until the RETRAC project put an end to that (to the city: can we please do something with these streets? Tear them out? Turn the abandoned bridge into a park? Skate park? Something?)
It's a most-odd location for what is being billed as 'luxury' apartments, because Brodhead Park continually has issues....one of the riverfront parks that you tend to ride your bike very quickly through. In fact, as I was taking photos of the construction of these townhomes, I was harassed by a group of dudes paying out money to folks who were bringing them aluminum cans in bags, and witnessed a group using needle syringes to inject an unknown substance.
Technically, the city can’t remove these folks from the park unless they have a place to put them, and all our shelters are currently at capacity. So whether you believe the city should leave them be or relocate them, they can’t do much to help or assist.
Perhaps a large housing project like this could spur a mini-redevelopment revolution in this area.
When I first moved into the West of Wells area, before Midtown was Midtown, and before West of Wells became the Wells Avenue Conservation District, there was a project on Center Street that is quite obviously attributed to starting the Center Street renaissance that, over the course of the past 11 years, completely transformed Center Street.
In 2006, when I began photographing and tracking construction of 8 on Center, my blog was flooded with comments like 'No one is going to buy these', 'Homeless people are going to be pissing on the doorsteps of these townhomes', 'This is the worst place to build high-end housing like this', 'These will be graffiti'd and ruined within 6 month' and on and on and on. People thought Haberae, the duo responsible for many successful infill projects throughout town, were smoking the good stuff, because 'no one in their right mind would live here.'
Not too long after these were built, Gui Drenby bult an amazing structure on an empty lot across the street from 8 On Center, in 2009. Here's a tour of that building. Then came Brasserie St. James, then came 777 Center, several old homes were turned into adaptive re-use businesses, including Calafuria and Bibo.
This brings me back to the mystery housing project being built, shown in the gallery below, at the terminus of Park Street. An odd area, a slightly unstable neighborhood, located next to a mini-park you wouldn't want to hang out in at night. Sound familiar?
With new duplexes being built on the same block as this larger housing project, and a few renovations of homes here and there along my walk through this neighborhood, could this developer have the same forward-thinking mentality that Haberae did, when they almost magically predicted what would happen to Center Street? Could this be the next 'it' neighborhood, right on the river with its own park?
Perhaps, I suppose time will tell. Instead of forcing out nearly all low-income people from the neighborhood, which is what happened in the West of Wells and Midtown neighborhoods, perhaps this area can grow with a bit more intelligence. Leave the student housing that's there alone.