The Fire Museum is gone. Now, what happens to the Coyle property?


Walking westbound on Spring Street yesterday afternoon, I noticed the temporary message board at the Vintage Fire Museum being loaded atop a trailer, and Curt Peters stacking boxes into a pickup truck. A glance behind the windows at the former Coyle Chevrolet showroom revealed — nothing. The museum’s apparently gone to Jeffersonville.

We’ve covered this ground previously, but it’s worth recalling the gist of it: In and of itself alone, the Vintage Fire Museum never would have been a game changer downtown. However, as a component of an organized downtown economic development strategy, it surely could have played a role. The museum’s departure to Jeffersonville tells us:

1. As yet, the city of New Albany’s downtown economic (and overall) development strategy remains piecemeal at best, and non-existent at worst. Entities petition for money and favors. Sometimes they get it, and sometimes not.

2. The city of Jeffersonville, though still quite capable of ineptitude, at least has such a strategy and has funded it. In the past, I’ve been approached quite informally and casually by Jeffersonville officials, so as to let me know what their city could do for a business like mine — downtown. I thank them and carry on, all the while thinking: But why not the same in New Albany, apart from an absence of will to implement it?

3. The Vintage Fire Museum’s departure informs us: It’s time for vigilance with respect to the future of the Coyle property’s vast asphalt expanse, both because an historic building is at stake, and owing to the nature of frequent hints that development there would come in the form of housing — thus suggesting that cynics like me establish up front just how much the inevitable, giveaway parking garage will cost us. Earlier this summer, the Green Mouse overheard city officials and the 6th district banker/councilman discussing the future of the historic showroom building, and whether it would survive a development deal or be demolished; when asked about it, the councilman ominously replied: “Just a rumor. Though all options should be considered when redeveloping a property.”

But all options should NOT be considered when voting on a non-binding resolution. It’s a curious world we live in, and an even stranger city. While enjoying today’s holiday, remember the Thrasher axiom: “We’re all here because we’re not all there.”