Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Commissioner Winnecke's Tech Park: Good Idea, Bad Location


Although I am 110% behind Rick Davis for mayor (and I hope you are too), I must give credit where credit is due.

At last week's mayoral debate, there were a lot of things I disagreed with Commissioner Lloyd Winnecke on such as Roberts Stadium, Omaha making a bad decision, building roads in the county, etc, etc ( I will be talking about these in a week or so). However, there is one project I have often wanted to see come to Evansville that Commissioner Winnecke appears to be interested in.

At the debate, Commissioner Winnecke brought up the idea of a tech park. This part here is where I would like to see Commissioner Winnecke stick with whether he will be mayor or commissioner next year. But, like the ball fields project we just witnessed, I would like to see Commissioner Winnecke tweak his proposal and change the location.

Commissioner Winnecke believes that the tech park should be built next to I-164 which is expected to be the future I-69. As those who read this blog know, I have talked about the I-69 boondoggle time and time again. So, I will not waste anymore time of that aspect of this debate other than to say that I-69 isn't going to be completed for some time and isn't worth building along.

With that being said, there is one area that I feel fits the idea of a tech park perfectly. That area, is Old US 41 and New US 41 that surrounds the Lloyd Expressway to the north and south...


Before I give the many reasons why I believe the tech park should be located along US 41 and the Lloyd Expressway, I would like to first introduce you to another tech park in the works here in Indiana.

16 Tech- Indianapolis, Indiana

Deemed, " 16 Tech," Indianapolis has made it a priority to fix the dilapidated district around 16th street which takes you from downtown Indianapolis to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


If you scrolled through the website above, you will see that Indianapolis is doing great things with their 16 Tech project. The renderings are great, but the planning is even better. One of my favorite things about the 16 Tech project is that it will convert historic Bush Stadium into an apartment complex without demolishing it...


The reason why Indianapolis will be successful with 16 Tech is because they are planning for the 21st century by implementing the following aspects into their tech park...

1. Building the tech park within walking distance of downtown Indianapolis.

2. Cleaning up, rebuilding, and enhancing a historic neighborhood that has been rundown for many years (urban renewal).

3. Building their tech park within walking distance of arts and cultural districts.

4. Committing to redevelopment instead of urban sprawl.

Indianapolis is also incorporating these 4 basic beliefs into their plan to redevelop a downtown GM Stamping Plant...


Given these 4 basic planning principles, why does the land along US 41, Old US 41, the Lloyd Expressway, and the Front Door Pride district make sense?

1. The old Hercules Motor Corporation plant, which is on the northwest corner of US 41 and the Lloyd Expressway, is both historic and dilapidated. This is our chance to fix that.

2. Since I-69 has been selected as the preferred route to Indianapolis, US 41 has fallen into an unacceptable state of disrepair. US 41, from the Lloyd Expressway to Veterans Memorial Parkway cannot remain in its current form. It simple isn't sustainable or affordable ($30 million just to take two stop lights off the Lloyd/41 interchange). This project starts the debate on what to do with US 41. Here are just a few links that talk about the future of freeways...





3. Old US 41 is historic. In fact, it is even older than Route 66. Oklahoma has redeveloped their old Route 66 (I talk about this below), while Evansville has let old US 41 fall into disrepair along Fares Avenue and Kentucky Avenue. This project can fix that

4. This project would be within walking distance of Haynie's Corner.

5. This project would be within walking distance of Deaconess Hospital which could be a potential partner for medical research at the tech park.

6. This project is within walking distance of the University of Evansville which would form a tremendous opportunity for both the university and tech park to gain significant grants and funds for various research initiatives.

7. Unlike the I-69 corridor, this project would have a strong connection to rail transportation which runs between the Lloyd Expressway and Franklin Street.

8. This project would compliment the announcement made today that our old Whirpool plant will soon be making windmill turbines.

9. This project would connect downtown Evansville to the east side.

10. This project helps solve our urban renewal problems where over 8,000 houses are either rundown or abandoned.

11. This project takes advantage of the newly repaved Oak Hill Road.

12. This project has access to US 41 northbound (and southbound if kept as is) as well as the Lloyd Expressway which connect to any and all interstates that surround Evansville.

Like I said earlier, Oklahoma has embraced their old Route 66 road, why won't Evansville do the same with old US 41?....



Many residents probably don't realize this, but old US 41, which started out as an "auto trail," is actually older than Route 66...


Factoring in all of this data, what are some design elements I would like to see incorporated into "41 Tech?"

1. As southbound motorists travel US 41 past the entrance to old US 41, they are greeted with a state-of-the-art entrance and sign.

2. The tech park is placed along the current US 41, old US 41, the Lloyd Expressway, and the Front Door Pride district.

3. A pedestrian bridge is built over the Lloyd Expressway to connect old US 41 as well as both sides of 41 Tech. This bridge could have a restaurant with a nice view of Evansville like Winnipeg has...


4. The old Wabash & Erie Canal is redug in a very small portion in the northwest corner of 41 and the Lloyd. In time, this small canal will eventually connect Wesselman Park to downtown Evansville.

5. Old US 41 is redeveloped in a fashion that is similar to Route 66 in Oklahoma.

6. The current US 41 is scaled down to a large boulevard so that students at Bosse High School are safer, and neighborhood residents can take their neighborhood back ( I will be talking about this as well in a post later this week or next, email me about details if you really want to know).

If we don't consider placing a tech park in this corridor, we will be making a huge mistake. This is why I believe that if both mayoral candidates live up to their promises we would be best served with Mr. Rick Davis as mayor and Mr. Lloyd Winnecke as commissioner or higher position. What do I think this fusion of talent could lead too?

1. The ball fields are placed at Kleymeyer & Garvin Park.

2. The tech park is placed along the current US 41, old US 41, the Lloyd Expressway, and the Front Door Pride district.

3. Front Door Pride is reformed so that it benefits Haynie's Corner and the "41 Tech" district.

4. Roberts Stadium is saved, renovated, and enhanced by future projects at Wesselman Park such as a rewatered canal, a completely new Hartke Pool complex, and a botanical garden.

5. Our downtown arena serves as a catalyst for downtown development.

If you look at these 5 concepts on a map, you will see that if implemented, they would turn around Evansville around 180 degrees and they would all feed off of each other.

1. The downtown arena would connect to the ball fields.

2. The ball fields would connect to 41 Tech.

3. 41 Tech would connect to Roberts Stadium and Wesselman Park as well as the FDP and Haynie's Corner Districts.

4. FDP and Haynie's Corner would connect to the downtown arena.

That is how you do urban renewal, and the time to undergo urban renewal is now. Instead of spending money on roads and projects on the far east side, why don't we take care of the neighborhoods that already exist? Why don't we reconnect our downtown with its surrounding neighborhoods?

We have the funds to build projects like this tech park, we just have to be willing to commit our funds to urban renewal instead of urban sprawl. Commissioner Winnecke, I urge you to reconsider your proposed location for your proposed tech park. Instead of more urban sprawl along I-164, why don't we rebuild our US 41 corridor and connect our downtown to our east side?


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