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April 30, 2014

Already discussed for demo, North Annex in New Albany makes state’s 10 Most Endangered list

NEW ALBANY — It sits literally in the midst of a green space adjoining Sam Peden Community Park, and figuratively in the middle of an ongoing discussion about property and budget concerns.

This year, the North Annex building that once housed the Floyd County Home has found itself situated on a list that’s hardly desirable.

Indiana Landmarks recently unveiled its 10 Most Endangered historical properties list for 2014. Indiana County Homes, including Floyd County’s North Annex, were included on the list.

“Our mission is to save meaningful places, and this is a list of 10 important places in the state that are in great danger of being lost,” said Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks.

The North Annex was built in 1878, and preservationists are most concerned about salvaging the front portion of the building. The structure was vacated and boarded up in 2012 after Floyd County Solid Waste and the Floyd County Youth Shelter were moved to the Pineview Government Center.

Now with Floyd County facing a budget crunch, the idea of selling property — including the North Annex — has been kicked around. Floyd County Council President Jim Wathen recently told the News and Tribune the county  should consider selling property and assets.

Such public discussions make preservations wary of what could become of the North Annex, said Greg Sekula, southern regional director for Indiana Landmarks.

“They’re an important part of the history of our communities, and they chronicle the sort of philanthropic arm that our local governments played in the past and continue to play,” Sekula said of the legacy of county homes, which were primarily used to house the poor and dying.

Since the building was vacated, multiple ideas for the future of the North Annex and the 19 acres of green space its sits on have been discussed. Razing the structure and selling the property to a commercial developer is one of those proposals.

Sekula said while Indiana Landmarks isn’t opposed to the property being sold, demolishing the structure or using it for a commercial interest would not be supported by the organization.

There were proposals in the past to convert the building into a campus for Family Scholar House — which is a Louisville-based organization which helps single parent students — but the idea never came to fruition.

A committee including Floyd County Council members and Floyd County Commissioner Chuck Freiberger has been formed to consider selling property to help remedy budget concerns, but no official recommendations have been put forward.

The Floyd County Commissioners have the final say on property transactions. Commissioner Steve Bush said that selling the North Annex won’t “be the salvation for solving budget issues.”

He added he’s not aware of any new proposals for the site, and that the commissioners should hold a discussion about the property soon since its vacant and shuttered. Bush said he would not favor turning the property into a commercial site, as he would side with converting it into a green space first.

Talks about the fate of the property should include the Floyd County Parks Department since they operate Community Park, Bush continued.

“I think it wouldn’t be bad to hold public meetings on it and see what people in the community would want,” he said.

 

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Judy Lunsford works on a lesson plan for her students with fellow teachers, Ellen Rothstein and Adam Stephens, in her classroom at Northaven Elementary in Jeffersonville Wednesday afternoon. Lunsford, a new addition to Northaven, will be teaching second grade.

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