A quick visit to Twelve Points

In 2013 I wrote an essay about Twelve Points, a neighborhood in Terre Haute in which I lived in the early 1990s. It was in sad shape on that 2013 visit, having been in decline since before I lived there. But as late as the 1970s, the heart of Twelve Points had been a vital center of commerce and entertainment.

Imagery and map data ©2013 Google

Twelve Points is named for the twelve corners created where Lafayette Avenue, 13th Street, and Maple Avenue all intersect. The three streets create a small triangle.

Revitalizations had been tried before, with small businesses going into some of the vacant storefronts. Critical mass was never reached, however, and soon the storefronts stood vacant again.

I arranged to meet Gerri Knezevich, who leads a new initiative to revitalize Twelve Points. He formed Twelve Points Revitalization, a 501(c)(3) organization, to drive economic development here. Where previous efforts had been led by businesses, Knezevich told me, this time events and the arts are leading the way. The idea is that these events will bring crowds, who will find an increasing number of hip, arty businesses here — and then people come back to keep enjoying these businesses. Knezevich’s group has brought several events to Twelve Points, including concerts, comedy, and even a car show. Visitors will currently find a pie shop, a record shop, a kombucha shop, and a nice Italian restaurant are leading the way. Unfortunately, I managed to visit on a Monday, when all of these businesses were closed.

Another aspect of this revitalization campaign is keeping Twelve Points clean, with volunteers regularly picking up litter. Volunteers are also brightening up Twelve Points by painting murals on the sides of some buildings.

12 Points mural
12 Points mural

Sadly, I didn’t photograph more of Twelve Points this day as it was quite cold. It’s just as well, as the area is still rather rough. But Knezevich assured me he’d keep inviting me back as events are scheduled. Perhaps I’ll be able to chronicle this neighborhood’s resurgence over the next few years.

Here’s hoping Knezevich and his volunteers find excellent success. To learn more, see the Twelve Points Revitalization Web site.

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6 responses to “A quick visit to Twelve Points”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I salute them for making a try at revitalization! It’s a tough business. I’ve lived in a lot of cities where revitalizations have been tried, and it’s always a delicate balance. In most cases, a lot of arts people are the ones moving into cheap but dangerous areas because they don’t make much money but need the space. Then the retail and restaurants follow, about the same time as the business speculators. If the primary pioneers like the arts people don’t buy first, they’ll be priced out eventually and move on to other down-trodden neighborhoods, while the area they improved will be populated by rich business people.

    One of the neighborhoods I lived in Milwaukee, was an old shopping district around three cross streets, on the south side of the city. It was adjacent to the lake front, and an old blue-collar enclave, but more like for the factory management class. After the arts people got shoved out of a few areas around the city that they were responsible for improving in the 70’s and 80’s; they came down there, but instead of getting the cheap rents, the bought in, convincing land-lords that had owned the places for 50 years to retire. In about a 4 to 5 year period, even the houses in the area were being bought by every tattooed and pierced hipster in the area.

    They got the jump on the speculators. Most of the little cafe’s and hip designer businesses that were started were either started by people that owned the buildings, or rented from their friends who owned the properties. They managed to shut the speculators out. When places like Starbucks came calling, they were the ones to set the price and made the profit from the rentals. And actually in the direct shopping district, they were able to keep places like Starbucks out and promote smaller local coffee roasters!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I love this story of how the artists controlled the gentrification!

    2. tbm3fan Avatar

      Yeah, screw the speculators and flippers for once.

    3. Khürt Williams Avatar

      Sounds like that project in Milwaukee was successful.

      New Brunswick (NJ) was not a safe place in the the mid-90s but it was the birthplace of Johnson & Johnson and Rutgers University. The township also had a train station that took workers to New York Penn Station. Johnson & Johnson bought up all the vacant lots and crack houses, cleaned it all up and resold/rented to local business owners and started sponsoring art and culrutal events. Robert Wood Johnson also buitl a large teaching hospital downtown just off the Rutger U. campus.

      There were two small play houses in New Brunswick in early 2000s. This is what that space looks like today. New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC).

      New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC)

      Some apartment rentals and condo in New Brunswick cost than twice my mortgage.

  2. James M Lucas Avatar
    James M Lucas

    I just drove through 12 Points Wed. night and it is looking good. It has the potential to be the Mass Ave of Terre Haute. They are very similar in origin and vibe. Back in the day 12 Points was a happening place. Of course , it helped that there was a city high school nearby.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wouldn’t that be cool? I’m rooting for 12 Points.

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