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Monday, April 15, 2024

Paving the Way

Community love saved Owen Block from demolition — and led to more historic preservation efforts

A decade ago, Owen Block was in trouble. The 1882 French Second Empire residence at Chestnut and Southeast Second streets had fallen into disrepair and faced the wrecking ball. Then, some now-familiar names stepped in.

In early 2015, the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development took hold of the project. Social media users dubbing themselves “Blockheads” helped with private fundraising, which now-retired DMD executive director Kelley Coures says made clear the community’s support for saving the building.

Indiana Landmarks exercised a purchase option on Owen Block and paid its thousands of dollars of back taxes. Architectural Renovators made a substantial investment to repair it, financed in part by $100,000 in bond proceeds from the city.

Coures, who briefly lived in one of Owen Block’s 15 one-bedroom apartments, says he’s proud of the project, which, as profiled in the December/January 2017 issue of Evansville Business, led to more historic preservation efforts.

Since Owen Block’s ribbon cutting on Aug. 5, 2016, new life has been breathed into other Downtown properties, including Cambridge Arms at 202 S.E. First St.; Washington Court at Haynie’s Corner Arts District, which opened last year; and Evansville’s former Greyhound bus terminal, now BRU Burger Bar at 222 Sycamore St.

“It really is rewarding to drive around Downtown and know some of it still exists because of the work we have done,” Martin told Evansville Business in 2019.

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