Sense of Place group brings Lindenwald together

Lindenwald residents want to bring their neighborhood back to its former status of “a city within itself,” while moving forward to revitalize the sense of community and involvement.

Following the city of Hamilton’s “17 Strong” initiative and Sense of Place Committee formation in late 2011, a group of Lindenwald residents took charge and created PROTOCOL, or People Reaching Out to Others: Celebrating Our Lindenwald, to organize community events and give a voice to the historic neighborhood.

Co-chair Frank Downie has lived in Lindenwald for 63 years, and his family has lived there for as far back as he can remember. He remembers the days when everything you needed was found right on or near Pleasant Avenue.

“There was a dentist, your doctor, banking was there… there was a feeling there,” he said. “People don’t do that anymore. I think people would like to do that, but you need something to coerce them outside.”

PROTOCOL meets every third Monday of the month to act as a liaison between the city administration and the community. Various city workers, including Utilities Director Doug Childs and City Councilwoman Kathleen Klink, attend meetings to hear and respond to their citizens’ comments directly.

The group also attempts to organize social events, including the Christmas Walk and concerts in the park, and are currently looking into installing local art into vacant storefront windows along Pleasant Avenue. Lindenwald’s Benninghofen Park will become home to a sprayground this summer, and PROTOCOL is excited for the communal events that such a gathering place can host.

“People are excited,” Downie said. “They want a concession stand.”

Co-chair James Brown moved to Lindenwald from Indianapolis in 2005, and realizes the importance of making it a family-friendly neighborhood.

“I have a five-and-a-half-year-old daughter,” he said. “I’m doing it (supporting PROTOCOL) for her, and I’m doing it for myself.”

Downie and Brown both felt that the utilization of social network site, NextDoor.com, has been immensely helpful for communicating more broadly and easily with the neighborhood. NextDoor is a private social network that, once you fill in your address, allows you to connect with fellow residents of your established neighborhood, enabling more ease for sending out notices and information relevant to the community.

“Twenty-seven people started (the Lindenwald group) about a year ago, and we didn’t even know about it,” said Downie. The number was still under 30 in March, and Brown said as of Wednesday morning, 96 Lindenwald residents had signed up, and are being active on the network.

“Almost every day, there’s two or three posts,” said Brown.

“I think (NextDoor) is the greatest thing we’ve ever done,” said Downie.

Several local businesses support the efforts to breathe new life into the area. Benjamin Price has been a Lindenwald business owner since 2010, and considers it to be “really up and coming.” Having purchased the Pleasant Avenue Barber Shop in 2010 and the Sweden Creme next door in 2012, his businesses have thrived, and he admires the historic aspect of the neighborhood.

“People don’t realize that before the interstate was built, (Route) 127 was the main thoroughfare to get to the south,” he said. His barber shop, at 2045 Pleasant Ave., retains its original 1950 appearance and hair-cutting procedures, and Sweden Creme, 2047 Pleasant Ave., sells old-fashioned Dixie hamburgers.

He would encourage more businesses to consider Lindenwald because “the people are good people, who will support a legitimate effort to start something that helps the community.”

Nineteen years ago, Debbie Doerflein opened Heaven Sent, which to date includes a bridal shop, coffee house, and banquet hall along Pleasant Avenue. Her business survived when “the bottom of things just fell out,” and she remains optimistic that Lindenwald can turn back around.

“PROTOCOL is a blessing,” she said. “People are trying to keep this a nice area.”

Brown says the best way Lindenwald residents can get their voices heard to the city is to “just ask. Getting the word out is the toughest thing.” Whether through PROTOCOL meetings, communicating via NextDoor or the city’s 311 website, Lindenwald residents can find the resources and learn about existing initiatives to rebuild the neighborhood.

“When I first agreed (to run PROTOCOL), I thought, this is just another — you know, the city’s promising things that aren’t going to happen,” said Downie. “They’re happening.”

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