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The Journal Gazette
Indiana Landmarks has placed State Boulevard and the Brookview-Irvington Park neighborhood on its annual 10 most-endangered sites list. Landmarks wants city officials and residents to have a dialogue about improving the State Boulevard project..

Historic cooperation

The controversy over city plans to widen and straighten State Boulevard landed the surrounding neighborhood a spot on a state historic preservation group’s newly released “10 Most Endangered List.” But its inclusion on the list will more likely help city planners improve the project than derail it.

“We thought we might be able to build a constructive dialogue around that project,” said Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks. “That whole area was thoughtfully designed with parkways and curving streets. It’s a very complicated project. You’ve got all those issues that need to be addressed: flooding, traffic congestion. But at the same time, we need to preserve the historical essence of the neighborhood.”

Indiana Landmarks added the Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District and State Boulevard to its list released Thursday.

Opponents of the project have long worried the proposed changes would damage the historic and charming neighborhood.

Davis said he knows the issue has been brewing for about five years. But now that the project is in its more advanced stages, “we hope we can weigh in more heavily in the process.”

City leaders think the project will be an improvement for the neighborhood while also alleviating traffic and flooding problems that plague that stretch of State Boulevard.

“The proposed design is more in line with the planned boulevard system than what currently exists,” said Bob Kennedy, director of public works.

The plan calls for tree-lined streets, planted medians and connecting sidewalks.

The city not only supported the neighborhood’s historic designation, but the city’s historic preservation staff helped with the application. Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior in March 2011.

“We were always operating under the assumption that the neighborhood was a historic district long before it got that designation,” city spokesman Frank Suarez said.

Kennedy said that already the few discussions city staff have had with Davis have been helpful.

The project approval process through the state and federal highway departments requires a historic preservation expert’s independent assessment of how the project will affect the neighborhood.

“The state historic preservation office has been very supportive of our mitigation efforts so far,” Kennedy said. But more feedback is needed from residents about what measures they want included in the project to ensure it protects and enhances the historic aspects of the neighborhood they want to preserve.

“We welcome the input from the state landmark group. We think it will help enhance the project as we move forward,” Suarez said.