Monday, August 01, 2005

More About the Un-Urban Eads Park

While on my Saturday afternoon urban hike I didn't bring a camera, here is some pretty recent aerial photography of the area in question.

Aerial View of Eads Park and Vicinity

This image shows South Jefferson Ave. on the far right side (east), Lafayette Ave. on the bottom (south). On the left side (west), most of California Ave. is visible, and on the top (north) is part of Park Ave.

A few things are evident that I neglected in my earlier post.

1) There are actually tennis courts in Eads Park, which is also known as Eads Square Park. However, the courts look pretty much unused and are in disrepair. The park was dedicated

2) I learned my estimate of "early 1980s" was a little off. About 1/2 the houses in the houses in the St. Vincent Court development (less prosaically called the "Lafayette Towne Resubdivision") were built in 1979; a second phase came in 1987. The north side of the 2600 block of St. Vincent, part of the "Classics of Eads Park" development by Pyramid, was built out from 1997 to 1999.

3) The new Hodgen School, meanwhile, was built in 2000, on the site once occupied by the corrugated metal Hodgen Branch building. The old Hodgen School was extensively renovated in the late 1990s. The Lafayette Habilitation Center building dates to 1985. Eads Square Park was dedicated in 1979.

Here's what the Neighborhood Profile from the 1999 Consolidated Plan says about this area:

[excerpted from section entitled "History"]

"During the late 1960s, a large amount of change took place in the neighborhood. In 1968, the federal government created the 235-subsidy program for home ownership by low-income people. Some unscrupulous real-estate companies took the program as an opportunity for profit. By working on white residents’ fears, these companies bought up homes at a low cost, which they in turn sold or rented to low-income African-American families. This practice, known as "block busting," had a huge impact on the area south of Park as widespread panic ensued. Between 1960 and 1970, the area east of Compton lost 62 percent of its population. By the early 1970s, much of the area’s housing stock had become derelict or been demolished.

"Beginning in the 1970s, a succession of different redevelopment plans for the area arose. The first, "New Town" from 1973, suggested leveling the area east of Compton and creating a large lake, surrounded by expensive homes, enveloped by a stone wall. Residents in the area formed the Southside Forum in reaction to this plan and together managed to strike it down. By 1975, they had joined forces with the HomeBuilders Association to devise a workable plan for the community. The HomeBuilders Association sponsored the New Town in Town Redevelopment Corporation and created a redevelopment plan for what was now being calling "Lafayette Towne." The original plan proposed dramatic restructuring of the street grid into a series of cul-de-sacs, demolition of large amounts of the remaining buildings, construction of single-family homes and apartments, and the creation of communal green spaces connected by walkways.

"Plans for Lafayette Towne continued over the next decade, but residents’ hopes dwindled as construction and redevelopment lagged behind the pace of demolition. By the late ‘80s, Pantheon, which had development rights in the area, had readied large amounts of land for construction, but only a fraction of the area had been redeveloped. Large amounts of vacant land resulted.

"By 1990, there was a new plan for the City to buy the property from Pantheon and redevelop the area as six individual "neighborhoods" making up the Gate District. A highly acclaimed Miami firm was retained by the City to formulate a master plan for the area. The firm’s design incorporated the restoration of older buildings with new construction and created six smaller neighborhoods with distinct entrance gates and tiny parks. Problems of communication and agreement led to revision of the plan, hampering its manifestation.

[excerpted from section entitled "Characteristics"]

"The area east of Compton is now referred to as The Gate District East and reflects the series of planning and redevelopment efforts made since the 1970s. The 1990 Gate District Plan divided this area into four smaller neighborhoods: Buder Park, Eads Park, Saint Vincent Park, and Lafayette Terrace. The largest amount of redevelopment over the years have occurred in Buder Park, the area north of Park, and in Eads Park, east of Nebraska between Park and Lafayette.

"Under the earlier plans, Eads Park was created at a cost of $1 million, complete with amphitheater, tennis courts, walkways and swimming pool. Two-story suburban style homes were built around cul-de-sacs just west of the park. As the momentum and funding for the construction of single family homes faltered, subsidized apartment buildings were constructed to the north. These include Caroline Apartments, Hickory Square Apartments, and apartments for the elderly. Most of the housing built during this time period is in good condition. The park, however, is a different story. The closing of streets made the park only accessible via walkways and, in a sense, cut it off from the surrounding community. Today, the amphitheater is underutilized and littered with trash. The tennis courts are in fair condition but also underutilized. The swimming pool has remained unused for at least the last decade; at this point, bulrushes are beginning to grow through the cover.

"A substantial amount of development has occurred in these areas since the 1980s. When the city bought back the redevelopment right to the area from Pantheon, it allowed SLACO and Pyramid to begin projects in The Gate District East. SLACO formed a partnership with the developer, Vatterott, and has built new single family homes between Park and Hickory west of Buder Park.

"In the last three years, Pyramid has constructed new two-story homes in Eads Park. These new developments have brought new residents to the area and have been particularly successful in attracting African-American professionals. Today this area is a mixture of older brick buildings, development that has taken place since the 1970s, vacant land, and newly constructed housing developments. Large portions of vacant land still exist to the west of Eads Park in the St. Vincent Park area and along Lafayette Terrace, the area south of Eads Park."

Most of that author's comments are still accurate today about the condition of the city park. I can't figure out where the amphitheater was, however; I see no visible evidence of a stage or anything resembling such. However, there is a fire hydrant smack dab in the middle of the park, where Ohio Ave. used to be.

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