Friday, September 24, 2010

Near East Neighborhood

Diversity in area exists on many levels
By GENE STOWE Tribune CorrespondentDate: Sunday, August 8 2010
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When they couldn't find land for a Unity Garden, organizers in the Near East Neighborhood suggested everyone plant vegetables in unused recycling bins.
People at nearly half the 125 addresses in the stretch from Eddy to Sunnyside between Madison and Colfax participated.
"We gathered a lot of contact information and got to know people," says Laureen Fagan, who moved into her home about nine years ago. "We have 56 different addresses who agreed to grow tomatoes or peppers or whatever they chose."
Gardening comes easy to Bill Whipkey and his wife, Margaret, who moved into their Madison Street home 88 years ago when she was 4 months old.
"We've always had a garden," she says. "My father had a garden, I remember. There was a grape arbor and a cherry tree. They're gone."
Gone too are the drugstore, tavern, grocery store (once an A&P), meat market, barber shop, beauty salon and dry cleaner that once provided walking-distance shopping near the intersection of Madison and Eddy.
The old Coquillard School at Colfax and Notre Dame avenues is gone.
"I think it was more stable when I was younger," she says, figuring that the trend to more rental properties picked up about 15 years ago.
Neighbors are determined to protect their neighborhood. Terry Berger, who arrived about a year ago from Lake Station, Ind., recently called Fagan and volunteered to be a block captain.
"The neighborhood we live in has had some break-ins," he says. "I've noticed some suspicious activity. This is a nice neighborhood over here, and I would like to keep that quality of living safe and have everybody enjoy the neighborhood. We all have to live on this planet together."
The neighborhood includes a synagogue, a church and a small apartment building. Residents relate to neighbors who lived at the 130-bed Cardinal Nursing Home, which hosts occasional ice cream socials or cookouts for the community.
"We definitely want some community involvement," says Kay Rendal, Cardinal's director of marketing.
Fagan visits the home every Monday. "Even residents who, for mobility reasons or cognitive reasons, are not going to garden at all, you get them talking, get them involved in conversing," she says.
The neighborhood, with easy walking or biking access to downtown, the Farmer's Market and Notre Dame, still has old-fashioned charm in its homes and along its streets.
"It's very diverse, not just in terms of race but also in terms of socioeconomics, lifestyles, the kind of thing you want in a neighborhood," says Fagan, who can see six-figure houses from one side of her porch and much-less-expensive homes on another side.
Residents drop off their green beans, peas, tomatoes and cucumbers on her porch on Tuesdays and Fridays for her to take to the Northeast Neighborhood Association's food pantry.
"We may have been motivated at first by crime prevention concerns, and of course still focus on Neighborhood Watch," Fagan says. "For me, it's really so much more than that in terms of quality of life, community projects, knowing names and talking.
"I have a lifestyle commitment to simplicity. This is a smaller and compact, and yet, in my view, a very attractive little property. This house is exactly what I need. I'd say the same thing about the neighborhood. It's a really interesting place to be."

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