Thursday, July 30 2009
Middle Eastern appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts soon will perk up Evansville's restaurant scene.
Damascus, Syria, native Amjad Manna, and his wife, Kristi, plan to offer some of the flavors of his regional roots at their new restaurant, Manna Mediterranean Grill, at 2913 Lincoln Ave.
Due to open Saturday for lunch and dinner, the restaurant is in the remodeled building formerly occupied by Lee's Chicken, which closed about a year ago.
"As Evansville is becoming more multicultural, we want to provide Middle Eastern food like we prepare and eat at home," said Manna.
Everything on the menu will feature recipes from his homeland region, except for the cheese pita pizza, chicken pieces, hamburgers and cheeseburgers that are on the children's menu, he said.
The lowest-priced item, at $2.99, will be grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomato, parsley and mild Middle Eastern spices.
The most expensive item will be a shish kebab for $12.99 that features marinated beef tenderloin grilled and served with aromatic rice, salad and pita bread.
Other items will include kibbeh, hummus, Greek salad, lamb/beef gyro sandwiches and baklawa for dessert.
If the Manna name seems familiar, it's understandable.
Manna, 38, is the nephew of Raffi Manna, a native of Jerusalem and owner of Raffi's Restaurant on North Burkhardt Road, which specializes in Italian dishes and American steaks.
The younger Manna had worked at Raffi's since coming to this country in 1997 and considers Raffi his mentor.
"He's taught me a lot," said Amjad Manna.
"How he treats customers is incredible. He remembers everyone's name."
Said Raffi Manna: "Amjad is smart, very smart. He listens well, is a good learner, is kind, dedicated and a hard worker.
"I wish him well."
Mediterranean dishes feature more meat and salads, unlike Italian food which is dominated by pasta, said Amjad Manna.
He plans to drive to Louisville, Ky., and Chicago regularly to pick up many of the ingredients for the restaurant's dishes, including spices, Greek olives, olive oil and meats.
Some ingredients will be purchased in Evansville as well, he said.
Manna Mediterranean Grill will offer sit-down dining and will fill takeout orders.
The restaurant also will cater business luncheons and dinners, Manna said.
In the future, it might also include drive-through service, once the clientele is built and customers are familiar with the restaurant's menu.
Manna graduated this year from the University of Southern Indiana with a bachelor's degree in business.
Kristi Manna, a native of Newburgh, is a newcomer to the restaurant business. She comes from a marketing and advertising background, having worked for the MAC Group Agency.
She said the Web sites of the city government (www.evansvillegov.org) and state government (www.in.gov.org) helped them tremendously in getting the business established online, including becoming incorporated.
The couple researched online, step by step, the various permits they would be required to have to operate the business and health codes they must also follow.
Tuesday, July 28 2009
Evansville residents in the housing sector are as optimistic about their future as their colleagues on the national stage.
An announcement on Monday by the Commerce Department of an increase in new home sales during June was seen as a positive sign the real estate market is bouncing back.
The Commerce Department reported new home sales in the United States rose 11 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000 from an upwardly revised May rate of 346,000.
It was the strongest sales pace since November 2008 and exceeded the forecasts of economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters, who expected a pace of 360,000 units.
The last time sales rose so dramatically was in December 2000.
This home-buying excess has been building for a while, said Chris Dickson, secretary and treasurer of the Evansville Area Association of Realtors.
"There's been a lot of pent-up demand over the spring; people have been holding off to buy. That demand is coming through," Dickson said.
National sales have risen for three straight months. The median sales price of $206,200, however, was down 12 percent from $234,300 a year earlier and down nearly 6 percent from $219,000 in May.
Things have been better in local counties than the national statistics.
Vanderburgh County had 214 new and existing sales in June, with an average sales price of $117,700. This represents a 4 percent increase from June 2008 in both units sold and average sales price.
Vanderburgh County has seen the real estate market increase every month since January, said Bob Reid with Appraisal Consultants.
Warrick County had 68 new and existing home sales in June for an average sales price of $163,900.
The report is seen as another encouraging sign that the beleaguered housing sector finally is coming back to life.
On Thursday, the National Association of Realtors reported that home resales posted a monthly increase of 3.6 percent in June.
Dickson said there are several lures for homeowners now, including first-time buyer incentives, $8,000 federal tax credit, incentives for buying foreclosed properties and low mortgage rates.
Dickson says this home-buying will help the economy.
"This is a very good time for sellers to get back into the market because there are buyers who want to buy.
"We've been through the valley, and we're coming out the other side."
Ray Simmons, sports information director at the University of Southern Indiana, recently sold his home and is having a new one built on Evansville's East Side.
He said his Realtor estimated it would take 60 days to sell his home, which was how long it took.
"She said she'd be able to get it sold," he said.
n The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Sunday, July 26 2009
Iraqi officials this morning announced the University of Evansville as one of only 22 colleges and universities across the nation participating in the first year of the new Iraq Education Initiative.
The project, which was announced in Washington, D.C., this morning by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was created as part of an effort to help rebuild Iraq by offering its citizens access to quality education in foreign countries. Among the goals of the Initiative is to send up to 10,000 Iraqi students per year over the next five years to the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia to complete their higher education studies.
The program will kick off in 2009/10 with 500 students going to the 22 universities announced this morning, including the University of Evansville. It is not yet known, however, how many of the students will attend UE.
"We are just incredibly excited to be part of the Iraq Education Initiative," said Bev Fowler, UE's director of international admission. "As we prepare to welcome Iraqi students to the university for their education, we also anticipate their presence will have a positive impact on the entire UE community. "
All of these students' education will be fully-funded by the Iraqi government.
With this morning's announcement, UE joined 21 other universities in creating the American Universities Iraq Consortium. But the University's efforts in Iraq go back beyond this project.
Last year, UE welcomes its first Iraqi student, Zaid Abdulmajeed, as part of a separate program, entitled the Iraqi Student Project. Then, in the spring, UE Vice President for Enrollment Services Thomas Bear traveled to Iraq to explore the new Iraq Education Initiative, leading to UE's participation in this morning's announcement.
At the news conference Prime Ministar al-Maliki - joined by the program's executive director, Zuhair Humadi - signed an implementation agreement with the Academy for Educational Development's president, Stephen F. Moseley.
The event took place at AED headquarters in Washington, D.C. Fowler was in attendance to represent the University of Evansville.
Courtesy: University of Evansville
Monday, July 20 2009
If you haven’t yet purchased tickets for Easter Seals’ HomeRun Sweeps raffle, it’s not too late.
Easter Seals will draw the winning tickets at noon Wednesday at the organization’s Rehabilitation Center gym. Participants need not be present to win.
The grand-prize winner will receive a choice of $100,000 or a new energy-efficient and handicap-accessible home valued at $163,905. The home, built by Eagle Construction, is located in the Bridlewood subdivision on Evansville’s North Side.
Five potential grand-prize tickets will be drawn Wednesday, and next week the five winners will gather at the prize house for a “key ceremony” to determine the grand-prize winner.
The four remaining finalists will receive cash prizes: $10,000, $5,000 and two $1,000 awards.
The HomeRun Sweeps drawing, originally set for July 9, was delayed because of slower-than-expected ticket sales. As of this morning, Easter Seals still had 672 of the raffle’s original 3,000 tickets for sale.
Tickets, $100 each, can be purchased between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. today and Tuesday, and from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday. Tickets are available at the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, 3701 Bellemeade Ave., or by calling (812) 437-2627.
Proceeds will help fund physical, occupational and speech therapy for Tri-State individuals with disabilities.
Saturday, July 18 2009
Unemployed Might Get Anti-Foreclosure Help
The Obama administration is reportedly considering a program that would give loan forbearance to the unemployed. The aim of the program is to provide help without distorting the housing market.
The program would augment the federal loan modification program, giving unemployed workers more time and financial leeway to qualify for a new loan.
So far the loan modification program hasn’t been very successful for a variety of reasons, including the declining equity many troubled borrowers have in their homes and rising unemployment figures that make lenders unwilling to participate.
Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department asked the 25 largest mortgage service companies to appoint a liaison officer to work with the government to slow defaults. On July 28, Treasury will host a meeting with these servicers to examine whether qualified applicants are being ignored.
Source: Reuters News, Patrick Rucker and David Lawder (07/13/2009)
Friday, July 17 2009
Windmill Saves Owners 25 Percent of Energy
Homeowners who want to go green and are looking for a source of alternative energy might consider the Windspire by Mariah Power.
The 1.2 kilowatt-producing mini-windmill can cut a typical household’s energy use by 25 percent in an area where the wind speed averages 12 mph. In urban Raleigh, N.C., near where the Windspire is being reviewed at North Carolina State University, the turbine will produce only 5 percent to 10 percent of a household’s energy, says Brian Miles, a wind energy specialist at N.C. State’s Solar Center.
The Windspire costs $6,500, plus $4,000 for installation. Federal tax incentives will help cut the out-of-pocket cost. Many states also offer tax incentives.
While there are other small wind turbines on the market, the Windspire has attracted attention because it is in use in both commercial and residential areas. George Bates of Chesapeake, Va., had two of the 30-foot-tall spires installed at his Chesapeake, Va., home. He says they are inaudible and “just an incredible piece of equipment.”
Source: The News & Observer, John Murawski (07/14/2009)
Thursday, July 16 2009
Local homestead credit back on in 2010
City Council members Monday night made sure that the firestorm of criticism over the elimination of the local homestead credit won't happen again next year.
As holders of more than 70 percent of the votes on the "county income tax council," to which state law designates responsibility for local homestead credits, council members voted 9-0 to provide the maximum 8 percent credit in 2010.
The Vanderburgh County Council, which holds almost all of the remaining votes, is expected to give its blessing to the credit renewal on July 21. The Darmstadt Town Council holds a small percentage.
But before City Council members could reflect on their vote for 2010, they heard a series of blistering denunciations from residents who helped fill chambers to standing-room-only capacity.
Mixing in warnings that the public does not support the planned Downtown arena and annexation plans, the speakers zeroed in on an unadvertised April 1, 2008, meeting in Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel's office at which city and county officials decided not to renew the 2009 local homestead credit.
Because none of the officials disclosed the decision afterward, the roughly 46,000 residents to whom the homestead credit spelled out more than $5.1 million in tax relief last year did not realize it had been discontinued until they saw the spring installment of this year's property tax bills.
"The actions that this (city) administration and council have taken do not create respect; they create contempt," Mike Sandefur said.
"... I think there is a momentum going, and I think that if you don't give the (2009 local homestead credit) back or if the arena is built, there's going to be a lot of empty seats come up at the next election."
Sandefur's remarks were applauded by about three dozen supporters of United Freedom Makers, a local group backing reinstatement of the 2009 homestead credit, elimination of an annexation initiative and a referendum on arena plans.
Reinstatement of the 2009 local homestead credit does not appear to be in the cards. The relevant state statute requires the local homestead credit be passed by the "county income tax council" by Aug. 1 of the previous year.
The local government officials who eliminated the 2009 homestead credit did have one defender.
"I agree with what you did," said Cathleen Tamez, who said she wasn't endorsing the unadvertised meeting in Weinzapfel's office.
"It's going to be a mistake to reinstate (the local homestead credit), and it's going to cost services, I believe, to the citizens of Evansville," she said.
Vanderburgh County Auditor's Office projections show the city received an extra $3.1 million-plus and the county more than $2.5 million extra this year from county-option income tax that would have paid for the local homestead credit.
City Controller Jenny Collins said Monday night the city's share "does go to fund police and fire."
"It is transferred into the general fund to pay their salaries and so forth."
But Collins also has said part of the money went to pay utilities and fuel costs and monthly electric bills for street lights.
Controller's office data indicates the percentage of city general fund spending devoted to public safety in 2009 has actually dropped by one point from the figure in 2008, when homeowners did receive the local homestead credit.
With the city's extra $3.1 million in county-option income tax proceeds woven into the 2009 budget, more than $59.9 million — 81 percent of the $74.2 million general fund — is earmarked for public safety departments.
But in 2008, a year for which the local homestead credit was renewed, 82 percent of the general fund was public safety spending.
Authorities apparently were concerned about the possibility of dissenters wanting to cause trouble.
In the hours before Monday's 5 p.m. City Council meeting, uniformed officers of the Evansville Police Department were stationed in Weinzapfel's office. The officers said they were working in shifts to provide a deterrent to anyone who might try to create a disturbance in the mayor's office.
Police Chief Brad Hill would not say how long officers were in Weinzapfel's office except to say they were not there all day. Hill also would not comment on reports that undercover officers were used as part of the Police Department's security force at Weinzapfel's arena announcement Monday or the City Council meeting.
Wednesday, July 15 2009
NEW HARMONY, Ind. — Habitat for Humanity of Evansville will break ground on its first home in New Harmony, Ind.
There will be a short opening ceremony for the house, located at 718 Third St., at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Jane Blaffer-Owen, a philanthropist influential in the restoration of New Harmony, donated the lot and covered costs for the infrastructure. She will speak at the event.
The house is being sponsored by the Staubitz Charitable Trust.
— Evan Shields
Tuesday, July 14 2009
Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel announced today that the city plans to build a new arena on land occupied by parts of the Executive Inn and adjacent properties along Southeast Sixth Street.
To make way for the project, the city will demolish the sections of the Executive Inn other than the hotel's tower on Walnut Street. The tower, containing about 250 rooms, will be renovated by Browning Investments, an Indianapolis company.
The arena project will meanwhile extend across Locust Street down to Main Street.
The site wasn’t the city’s first choice. In December, a local advisory board charged with making a plan to either replace or renovate Roberts Stadium decided the city should build a new arena on the site of the D-Patrick lot. But negotiations between the D-Patrick owners and city officials stalled in the following months, as the two sides seemed unable to agree on a price.
Weinzapfel said today he thinks the current plan is better for the city. It ensure the new arena will be connected to both The Centre, via the Executive Inn, and Main Street.
In June, city officials added both the Ford lot and the Executive Inn site to an acquisition list, saying that was a necessary step toward the purchase of either property. For their part, representatives of the Executive Inn, affiliated with a Chicago-area bank, said they would sell the Downtown hotel for the same amount of money they had put into it. The bank, named Mutual Bank, had loaned $12.4 million to finance the 2007 purchase of the Executive Inn, later acquiring the property after the former owner had fallen behind on payments.
Besides D-Patrick and the Executive Inn sites, the city also considered building the arena on land occupied by the old Greyhound bus station.
The new arena is expected to cost between $117 million and $127 million. John Kish, arena manager, said he thinks it possible to still stay within that budget.
City officials propose to pay for it using money from the Downtown Tax Increment Financing, casino receipts and food-and-beverage taxes, according to a plan prepared by the city's financing consultant London Witte. In May, state legislators passed a bill that allows revenues from the local food-and-beverage tax, now dedicated to paying off bonds used to build The Centre, to go to the local arena.
Monday, July 13 2009
Governor Mitch Daniels has named the Vectren Corporation as one of five recipients for this year’s Governor’s Arts Awards.
The Evansville-based utility company won the award for a combination of efforts, according to statement issued through the Indiana Arts Commission. “Their commitment to the arts encourages others to follow in their lead.”
The announcement cites the corporation’s financial support for the arts and school art programs and its encouragement of employees “to contribute time and talent through leadership and volunteerism.”
Since their creation, in 1973, the biennial awards have recognized individuals, organizations, partnerships, businesses, and communities that have made significant contributions to the arts in and beyond Indiana.
Other recipients of this year’s Governor’s Arts Awards include: Angela Brown, an opera singer from Indianapolis, for a career that’s taken her to New York’s Metropolitan Opera; the Ball Brothers Foundation and the George and Frances Ball Foundation of Muncie, Ind., for their support for and recognition of the arts; the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, for bringing world focus on Indiana with the quadrennial competition; and Sweetwater Sound Inc. of Fort Wayne, Ind., one of the nation’s largest retailers of music technology and instruments, for its support of music and musical education.
All five will receive their awards Sept. 25 at the Cornerstone Center for the Arts in Muncie.
By Roger McBain
Wednesday, July 08 2009
June continued to be a good month for real estate closings. Each month in 2009 has shown increased units sold versus the previous month. And June saw an increase in units over June 2008, the first month over month increase this year! In addition to an increase in number of units sold, we’ve also seen a significant decrease in month’s supply. In January we had over 15 month’s supply of homes on the market. That number has declined to 7.26 month’s supply as of June. Average Days on Market has remained fairly steady this year, with June’s average at 118 days. The bottom line – demand has increased and supply has decreased – all signs point to a strong local real estate market.
We are thrilled to announce another significant improvement to our website. The New Listing Alert is now called "My FCTuckerEmge.com." Get to know all of the features available! New enhancements include:
· Saved Search: Store your favorite searches to make your home search easier!
· Price Change Alerts: When the price changes, be the first to know
· Saved Properties: Click once and save any property that you would like to view later
· Open House Alerts: Always know when there is an open house with a simple click
· New to Market: Know when new properties that match your saved searches hit the market
Continue to enjoy your Summer and I’ll update you again next month on our Real Estate market.
Please feel free to call me at 812-499-9234 if you have any troubles with signing up at the Tucker website and please feel free to call us for all your real estate needs.
Tuesday, July 07 2009
The City Council has scheduled a public hearing next Monday to discuss a resolution endorsing Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel's request to establish the maximum 8 percent local homestead credit in 2010.
The hearing will begin at 5:25 p.m. in Room 301 of the Civic Center. The resolution was introduced to the council Monday on a first reading and will be voted on at their regular meeting next Monday.
Weinzapfel announced the request last week. The council must act quickly because state law requires the local homestead credit be passed by a "county income tax council," composed of city and county governing bodies, by Aug. 1 of the previous year.
"With this action today, I am following through with my promise to the people of Evansville to ask (the) City Council to reinstate the full local homestead tax credit for 2010," Weinzapfel said last week in a written statement. "We estimate that amount to be about $3.1 million (in the city) based on 2008 figures."
Weinzapfel became the focus of public anger last month when he acknowledged he hosted an unadvertised meeting of city and county officials of both major parties on April 1, 2008, at which they decided not to support renewal of the local homestead credit for 2009.
Because none of the officials disclosed the decision afterward, the roughly 46,000 residents to whom the local homestead credit gave more than $5.1 million in tax relief last year did not realize it had been discontinued until they saw the spring installment of this year's property tax bills.
Friday, July 03 2009
Professional House Inspection: A Must for Foreclosed Homes
July 2nd, 2009 Foreclosure homes provide price opportunities for buyers, but they can also become pits that swallow buyers’ savings if they are purchased without professional house inspection.
House inspection would show defects undetected by the prospective home buyer and would help determine if the asking price is reasonable.
Bill Richardson, president of the 6,000-member 80-chapter American Society of Home Inspectors, said that a lot of defects discovered during house inspection were caused by neglect and lack of maintenance. Many inspectors are seeing leaking faucets, air conditioners and furnaces without filters and damaged windows and doors.
Kathleen Kuhn, head of the New Jersey-based 380-affiliate franchise organization HeadMaster, said most inspectors doing home inspections on foreclosed homes see many defects due to neglect and vandalism. Kuhn said that some homeowners forced out of houses vent their anger on walls and other parts of the house.
Foreclosed houses that have become vacant for so long have also been seen with molds during house inspection. Molds can be removed with proper cleaning and ventilation, but it will take time, including money to buy strong cleaning solutions and to hire cleaning personnel.
Richardson also added that many house inspection processes conducted in foreclosure homes resulted in findings of leaking valves, defective appliances, damaged gaskets, broken hoses and missing plumbing fixtures.
Kuhn said defects in plumbing can cause floods that would damage many parts of the house and wipe out the homeowners’ savings due to expensive repairs.
Meanwhile, Richardson added that when a sewer trap dries out, it could permit methane gas to enter the house.
Both Richardson and Kuhn also described foreclosed house damages caused by thieves and vandals. Inspectors also come to know during home inspection that many foreclosure properties with a lot of damages were owned by lenders that did not carry out foreclosure proceedings with compassion.
So if you are investing your money in foreclosure properties either for your own use or for investment purposes, hire a professional house inspector to conduct a home inspection.
The fees you are going to spend for house inspection will be returned to you in the form of peace of mind and the assurance that the lower price you paid for the foreclosure property will not double because of expensive repairs.
House inspection will also help you calculate repair costs so you will know how much discount or what repairs you are going to negotiate with the seller.
Thursday, July 02 2009
The Treasury Department on Wednesday expanded its foreclosure prevention plan, lifting the current 105 percent loan-to-value cap to refinance up to 125 percent of a home’s value.
Applications to refinance mortgages have fallen as rates have increased in the last couple of weeks, but this move may bring more borrowers to the table.
At the same time, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have agreed to reduce the processing fee for borrowers who select a 25-year mortgage.
Fannie said in a statement, "The reduction is intended to lure borrowers to select shorter terms and build positive equity in their homes sooner than with a typical 30-year mortgage.”
Source: Reuters News, Patrick Rucker (07/01/2009)