Talk of development in Evansville recently has been centered on Downtown. But the city has its sights on other areas of improvement as well — one of the biggest being the North Main corridor/Jacobsville area.
The journey for Jacobsville — a 1.9-square-mile neighborhood situated just north of Downtown with North Main as its business corridor — began about seven years ago when Stephanie Tenbarge, executive director of ECHO Housing, attended an Indiana Association for Community Economic Development (IACED) conference in Indianapolis.
“One of our homework assignments was asset mapping,” she says. “When I came back, I realized I had about five times the amount of pages of the other neighborhoods there.”
To Tenbarge, that meant Jacobsville was ready for development.
Tenbarge along with IACED, Habitat for Humanity, and the City of Evansville began a quality of life process for the neighborhood, engaging residents in conversations about the challenges of the area and the changes they would like to see. This initiative would give birth to Jacobsville Join In (JJI).
Since then, JJI has been the connection between the neighborhood and the city, encouraging residents to be a part of the development while also ensuring concerns and needs are heard by officials.
To help with this process, JJI brought in Wil Marquez of w/purpose, an Indianapolis-based creative design studio that works with cities and neighborhoods. With his help, the picture of the future began to evolve from the feedback of residents and business owners. To Marquez, understanding the neighborhood was the important first step.
“The building is going to come, but we’ve got to build culture and capacity,” he says. “I think people have this idea that neighborhoods are not living things. And that’s just simply crazy. They have to evolve.”
The Complete Street Project, which began in 2016, may not have been the first step for the area, but it certainly began to show residents the start of the redevelopment. The project entails removing on-street parking along the east side of North Main Street beginning at Division Street and ending at Maryland Street.
The freed space is being transformed into a buffered, eight-foot-wide bicycle path stretching along the entire North Main business corridor. Parking still will be allowed on the west side of the street, as well as in new off-street parking zones. Complete Street project will extend up to Garvin Park, but still provide parking on both sides of the street in residential areas, says Tenbarge. Construction is expected to finish in September 2017.
From this project alone, North Main business is expected to grow. An economic impact study put together by The Lochmueller Group predicts a boost in aggregate property values by $1.9 million over a six-year period. The Evansville Otters, who call Bosse Field home, also will see a revenue jump around $450,000, the study shows.
“The work that JJI and ECHO are doing is noble,” says Marquez. “If you’re going to buy in, I would say double down now.”
Complete Street is only the beginning of the process, adds Tenbarge.
“It’s an, ‘If you build it, they will come’ type of thing. It’s a slow process, but we’re seeing a level of interest of people wanting to come into this community,” she says. “It will be where people want to live, it’s where people will want to be.”