City On The Verge Of Making Yet Another Epic Mistake


Written by Jordan Baer.  This article is posted by the City County Observer without opinion, bias or editingjordan baer

If you surf the City-County Observer quite frequently like I do, you’re probably well aware that those in the driver’s seat at the Civic Center have been no stranger to making mistakes of epic proportions. Such mistakes as the Homestead Tax Grab, Earthcare, and Global Blade Technology are silent but violent. Due to these mistakes being mostly financially related, they show very little tangible remnants of failure outside of a building that has been looking for tenants long before Earthcare and GBT became household names.

The only thing worse than the above financial disasters have been the tangible urban planning mistakes whose negative consequences are already beginning to set in. For quite awhile, we’ve watched the city, the chamber, and now one of our universities focus on an “innovation corridor” along I-69 while the Hercules Motor Plant district located in the northwest corner of the Lloyd Expressway and U.S 41 sits rotting despite the fact that the entire area enjoys great road access, great rail access, and great road and rail access to our airport and ports.

We’ve seen a complete lack of transparency during the hotel project as very few people have seen all the competing proposals. We’ve also watched the Great Lawn of Lies be exposed time and time again for what it is and was- An excuse to tear down an arena that didn’t need to be torn down. And finally, we’re now watching the ECVB prepare to construct sprawl fields in a lot far away from the city’s inner core, while a current ball field lot sits open just across from Don Mattingly Way, Bosse Field, a neighborhood that openly embraced the project, and just down the road from the Ford Center and a lot that just might turn out to be a hotel someday. If only this was all just a wicked nightmare.

With all these failures in tow, it appears the city is now ready to make yet another mistake that will prove to be a mistake that creates a legacy of mistakes. Just a few weeks ago, we learned from the City-County Observer that the city is now focusing on using the Old Greyhound Bus Station lot in their bid to lure the I.U Medical School to Downtown Evansville. This decision, if followed through, is a losing proposition. Like all of the previous failures listed above, there is a better alternative, and it’s an alternative that has now been available for roughly 40 years.

Back in 1971, the city of Evansville’s school corporation made a terrible decision. They decided to vacate their only downtown high school in favor of the current one that for many years was farther north than North High School. This decision resulted in demolition of Old Central High School in 1973. Thanks to those at, we also know that this decision didn’t just affect the city’s urban planning, it also destroyed what could possibly be argued as one of the best architecturally designed buildings in the school corps profile…

Of course, by now you’re saying, “that’s great but why pick a lot just because of past architecture?” The answer to that is that this isn’t picking a lot just because of past architecture. You see, some of the effects of Old Central High School being on the lot are still intact for IUMS to benefit from such as the YMCA (Old Central Gym). Let’s take a one on one look at the advantages of the site compared to those of the Old Greyhound Bus Station Lot…

Old Central- Directly Across from the METS Bus Terminal

Old Greyhound- On Lot of Previous Bus Terminal

Old Central- Directly Across from the YMCA

Old Greyhound- Directly Across from the YWCA

Old Central- 2 Blocks from the Victory, 3 Blocks from the Ford Center, 4 Blocks from the Hotel on the Same Road

Old Greyhound- 4 Blocks & 1 Over from Victory, 4 Blocks & 2 Over from The Ford Center, 4 Blocks & 3 Over from the Hotel

Old Central- Down the Road from Deaconess Hospital and a Jacobsville Area Desperately Needing Revitalization

Old Greyhound- Down the Road from Tropicana Casino- the Last Place You’d Want a University

Old Central- Across MLK from over 3 Historic Apartment Complexes

Old Greyhound- Across from a Bank, Office Space, and That’s About It

Old Central- Catty Corner to a Public Parking Garage

Old Greyhound- Across the Street from a Private Parking Garage

Old Central- Would Serve as a Gateway to Downtown With Future Expansion to the Northwest & Northeast

Old Greyhound- Is Landlocked, in the Middle of Downtown, and Stuck in the Entertainment District

Old Central- Has the Opportunity to be the Focal Point of Downtown with a Reconstructed Bell Tower

Old Greyhound- Let’s Just Hope They Don’t Tear Down the Historic Bus Station

According to the unofficial report on the Vanderburgh County Assessor’s website, the two parcels of land that make up the lot Old Central High School sat on are owned by the YMCA and Vanderburgh County. I can’t imagine negotiations with either of these two being as rough as they have been currently. Not to mention, a fuse of cash coupled with a med school neighbor would do wonders for the YMCA.

Back in 1969, USI, then ISUE, made a TERRIBLE decision. They moved all of their campus out of the former Centennial School Building on the corner of 12th & W. Illinois St. and onto the current campus ( This decision has no doubt been the catalyst for sprawl on the far Westside while contributing to the decline of Franklin Street before the Franklin Street Events Association took over. Having grown up in a house just one block from the old Centennial School lot, I can’t help but wonder just how different Franklin Street and the area around it would look today if USI had made the right decision and stayed.

Now, as IUMS seeks a new campus, we must make sure we don’t repeat the USI mistake. In an era of New Urbanism, now is the time to put together a genuine plan for Downtown Evansville, and that starts with IUMS. Since the demolition of Old Central, there’s been a void left in the middle of Downtown. As I listened to the bell tower above Oak Hill Cemetery roar with music last month (thanks to cemetery superintendent Chris Cooke), I fail to understand why the city doesn’t recognize that now is the time to build back Downtown Evansville’s iconic bell tower image.

With a little under four weeks to go, the city still has time to undue what’s been done. For once, I would like to see our city leaders do the right thing and put together a proposal that addresses multiple needs and advantages of Downtown. This broken record is heading around again, will the fourth verse be like the third, second, and first?


  1. “… have been the tangible urban planning mistakes whose negative consequences are already beginning to set in. ”

    Exactly why governments should not be involved. Pick any city and you will be hard pressed to find their “planning” not laden (forget the sparrow) with cronyism, backroom deals, political motivations and on and on.

    Expectations of transparency in our government at any level is a fanciful notion especially in Evansville. The sad thing is this; with every new mayor down to the janitor promises are made of transparency and all the buzzwords we like to hear. Yet every new administration is just a rehash of the last; only the names have changed to protect the guilty.

    Evansville requires competent leadership NOW!

    Jordan, you are a breath of fresh air and a reason for hope.
    Your dogged determination to find the truth and foment a plan of action are inspirational.
    Press on! …

    • I completely agree with bubba about you and the promise you show, Jordan. I completely disagree with the idea that either of the downtown sites is suitable for the IU Medical School. I know that decision is up to the IU team, and hope the intra-county squabble being instigated by the Mayor and his minions doesn’t disgust them so much they turn to Warrick County.

        • I expect his second term is toast, anyway. Water rates are going up, doubt grows again as to whether his hotel will “go up”, and his stance on the Medical School is making him more enemies than friends. He has presided over some inexcusable “give-aways” to questionable companies, and his “angel investment” plan is still flapping its wings in the ether. He’s going to have to pull a rabbit out of a hat to get a second term. I am beginning to wonder if he is going to get to serve out his first one.

          • I agree its probably toast anyway, but there is little doubt that failure is not an option for him. A success on IU and he might have enough political capital to carry him through. To fail on IU would be the final straw for most voters. This mishandling would represent a huge dagger to Winnecke’s heart for any opponent to just push in with his pinky finger.

        • His term is toast anyway. He’s proven he’s a Democrat lackey by following through with everything Job-Boy wanted to do. We would have run Jon-Boy out of office (hence he didn’t run) just as we’ll throw Winnecke out. All we need is a true viable candidate qualified for the job.
          I really hate to think we would be forced to hold our nose & vote for Winnecke.
          Someone will step up & run & party isn’t important-except the HUGE party we’ll have when Jon-Boy II is defeated 🙂

  3. This article underscores why government should sell all surplus property whenever possible rather than being so arrogant as to think their haphazard planning will lead to a more vibrant, beautiful, and prosperous city.

    Government planning in the 1960s and 1970s destroyed what was a beautiful, homogeneous, organic downtown, architecturally speaking. Why are we putting any more faith in government now? It should be a given for anyone paying attention that anything government touches will cost twice as much, be half as functional, and will be torn down again in 50 years from neglect.

    • You’re right on this one, Brad. When the great planners blocked the aorta of downtown Evansville with the destruction of the train depot and the construction of the Civic Center, it was the beginning of the end.
      I spent the ’70’s and part of the ’80’s advocating with all my might for keeping downtown Evansville alive, but that arterial blockage is proving fatal. Both the physical presence of the Civic Center and the mindsets of it’s various occupants are killing the “heart” of the city and dividing it into two distinct communities.

  4. Thank you for all the comments. Bubbageek, I’m glad to hear from you again. I’m not kidding, I was literally thinking yesterday I wonder what happened to you and Beerguy.

    Couple of things…

    1. You can view all of the above in a diagram I made. The only thing I forgot to put in it was the parking garage that is catty corner from the property…

    2. I agree the gov’t is not the solution to this. But I also disagree that the private sector is. The private sector will lobby for whatever takes care of their businesses first and foremost. The ball fields project is an obvious example of that. Not to beat on a dead horse, but a community led city like OKC and MAPS is the correct solution.

    3. The only thing worse than the civic center blocking Main is the construction of the LLoyd Expressway. Without a doubt, it has divided Jacobsville from Downtown and thus cutting it off from a lot of political support and financial support it could have had had it not be separated.

    • For a wide variety of reasons: 1. I’m not a dem 2. If I was there’d be enough ppl with ego vendettas who would split the vote 3. There’s a million ppl like who have a ton of money and would spend it to make sure you stayed in power 4. This city will never elect someone under 40.

      Now let me ask you- Why can’t you look at this situation as what’s best for Evansville and not what’s best as a Rep and publicly come out in support of building on the old Central lot with an iconic bell tower?

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