Cities always pick "big" over "little". But back in those years, with Jim Schellinger at CSO architects and with Joe Hornett at "PRF" (Purdue Research Foundation), we were able to imagine a "South Bend" style large scale reinvestment in Purdue's near-campus neighborhood. We were even going to fly on the Purdue plane to other places in the country where such programs were already in place.
Such an initiative would help preserve historic homes of the 1920's and 30's. It would help preserve a multi-class, multi-generational, near campus neighborhood that hearkens back to a time when the American university was a residential community, rather than an industry. It would, by allowing a mix of residential densities, serve as a counterpoint to the neighborhood segregation by class and income that is a feature of modern real-estate and the bane of urban sociologists.
It was ambitious. It would make both Purdue and West Lafayette look good. The re-investment plan even had an admittedly awkward name; "New Chauncey Rebound".
But university administrations change. University administrators live other places.
Some few years later, West Lafayette and Purdue have now turned their attention to State St. This is where the university's, the city's, the foundation's and the redevelopment commission's "TIF" monies will go. They will be joined by whatever "rented" money can be found. I have no objection to this ambitious project. It will be the first moment of a new West Lafayette. I will try and secure some funding from the Redevelopment Commission through the City Engineer's office for a pilot project involving safety improvements along my neighborhood's main street, Salisbury Ave.
But the major redevelopment imagined in advance of the New Chauncey Land Use Plan is unlikely. The neighborhood's one millionaire moved away. The sweeping plans sketched in the early Hayes Triangle Project are gone. "Fuse" was cut in half. The "big news" on Northwestern Ave. is now the Family Express. There is no capital available to do big things. Which perhaps makes the point of the land use plan moot. It was meant to ameliorate "big"; to make the inexorable "big" bearable. "Big" looks less likely.
It could now reasonably be argued that the city, that New Chauncey, should not give up any R-1 zoning, and that this proposal should be defeated. All the predictable developments we would likely see could easily come to us as a "PD" or planned development as they have in the past. I am not making that argument here.
While the land use plan was proceeding in fits and starts, in 2011 the city began to independently build the West Lafayette Historic Commission, and in 2013 the commission mapped the New Chauncey Historic District. I was happy to help move both of those ordinances forward. The Historic Preservation Commission would help preserve historic homes of the 1920's and 30's. It would help preserve a multi-class, multi-generational, near campus neighborhood that hearkens back to a time when the American university was a residential community, rather than an industry. It would encourage, inform, then protect the investments of little guy homeowners.
The Land Use Plan narrative was finally completed in 2013. The rezoning before city council now in August of 2015 is an attempt to create a technical response to the land-use narrative. The form-based code which will overlay the district is in process. There will be input into the code both from city staff and our local historic district folks. There will be some overlap in both codes with respect to building form. The interaction between the massive and comprehensive land use plan, these and possible further zoning changes, the Historic Preservation Commission, and the yet-to-come overlay zone will play out as experience builds. Crucially, the Historic Preservation Commission must approve any demolition in most of New Chauncey.
So while this process has had less immediate benefit than was first envisioned, the land use plan and these zoning changes remain worth doing. The overlay form based code is worth doing. The historic preservation commission is worth doing. It is ambitious to hope that they will all work well together. But there is real opportunity here for us in both preservation and redevelopment, if we can think 10 or 20 years out. In the end, it will be a way of doing for the middle class what gated communities, what golf course communities, have done for the upper class: preserve the character of a neighborhood. All this may have no impact immediately an Katy and Peter Bunder. But it will be important for the people who buy our house, and important for their children.