Indy star indianapolis neighborhoods battle blight - 2-20-11

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Indy star indianapolis neighborhoods battle blight - 2-20-11

  1. 1. 2/21/2011 Format Dynamics€::€Kodak Viewer Chipping away at that urban decay is Indianapolis crucial because neighborhoods are the foundation of any city. The condition of our neighborhoods neighborhoods -- and the commitment to them from residents who live there -- will battle blight help determine whether Indianapolis prospers or withers in the years ahead. "You know why the Near Eastside is doing so well? They were organized, and they were ready to receive the help," Mayor Written by Greg Ballard said of the residents. "Other people arent necessarily as ready to Erika D. Sm ith receive it as we would like them to be." 12:22 AM, Feb. 20, 2011| Of course, not every neighborhood in Drive east out of Downtown Indianapolis, Indianapolis is in bad shape. Far from it. and signs of urban decay are easy to find: But as the city prepares to put forward the best possible face for next years Super Boarded-up houses. Crumbling sidewalks. Bowl, visitors wont have to venture far from Storefronts ensconced in security gates. Downtown to find neighborhoods unlikely to Potholes that will gut a cars underside if hit make it on any postcard. at the wrong speed or angle. Teddy bears stacked by the roadside as memorials to Travel in any direction from Lucas Oil shooting victims. People selling everything Stadium and within minutes, youll end up from rugs to baby strollers on their front in a neighborhood where blight has set lawns to help make ends meet. down deep roots. But something else can be found below the Advertisement surface: hope. The Near Eastside -- with its striking new community center, pockets of renovated homes, bike lanes, co-op grocery store and an art gallery that offers yoga classes -- represents, in many ways, the art of the possible for struggling neighborhoods in Indianapolis. The neighborhood isnt perfect, but its getting better. Many neighborhoods cant say that much.www.indystar.com/fdcp/?1298307388815 1/7
  2. 2. 2/21/2011 Format Dynamics€::€Kodak Viewer To the northeast and northwest, said of the citys infrastructure. "It comes neighborhoods such as Martindale- under short-term budgetary and political Brightwood and Haughville are dotted with pressure to not take care of the roads and abandoned houses, unkempt lots and the sidewalks on a year-to-year basis. And reputations for violent crime, even though I understand that. We feel the pressure, theft and vandalism are more common. too." To the southwest, neighborhoods such as The city recently surveyed more than Mars Hill and Maywood are stocked with 1,100 residents to help prioritize aging, single-family homes. Massive community development efforts. industrial plants, some shuttered, surround these bedroom communities near the South The results overwhelmingly tagged the Side Landfill. Until the city recently fixed the demolition or rehabilitation of abandoned problem, flooding wracked the area when properties as a top priority. Residents also it rained. cited needs such as assistance for home repair, more home ownership, street improvements, sidewalks, crime Decades of decay awareness, mass transit and more youth centers. The decline of Indianapolis neighborhoods isnt new. In fact, it was decades in the Some of those problems are being making. But recent population shifts, as addressed as part of the mayors shown in data from the U.S. Census Bureau, RebuildIndy program. The Department of have made matters worse. Public Works has in recent months spent $55 million on resurfacing roads, repairing "The problem is, Indiana is cheap," said sidewalks and bridges, and demolishing Aaron M. Renn, an urban planning expert abandoned homes. An additional $32 and former Hoosier. Advertisement When it comes to infrastructure, Indianapolis has always done the "bare- bones" minimum, he said. Sidewalks were never built in large swaths of the city. Potholes the size of craters have been allowed to form on roads and in alleys. And, under orders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the city only recently has begun moving to fix a sewer system that sends raw sewage into rivers and streams when it rains. "Its been neglected for so long," Ballardwww.indystar.com/fdcp/?1298307388815 2/7
  3. 3. 2/21/2011 Format Dynamics€::€Kodak Viewer million will be spent on infrastructure this By creating neighborhoods with distinctive spring. personalities, Renn said. Walkable e nvironments with small shops, But doing everything that needs to be done coffeehouses, bars and grocery stores can to repair or replace the citys infrastructure make older neighborhoods attractive, would cost $1.5 billion and take years to especially to young people. complete. Only a fraction of the money needed is available now. "We really need to create these urban spaces," Ballard said. "Indianapolis is an In the meantime, residents are bypassing urban area. We dont want to be the Indianapolis urban core for the suburbs. suburban area." According to census data released this Retaining residents and attracting month, the five fastest-growing counties in newcomers is a difficult task, however, for the state all are neighbors of Marion neighborhoods already in a downward County. spiral. Hamilton Countys population jumped 50 Residents have to be involved, organized percent, and Hendricks County grew 40 and vocal. They have to come up with a percent since 2000. Marion County grew common vision to grab the attention of about 5 percent. public officials and business leaders. The shift, experts say, has been driven by "The neighborhoods have to articulate their jobs, housing and quality-of-life issues own destiny," Williams said. such as schools, parks and lower crime rates. Near Eastside "People are moving out of Center Township Advertisement and going to suburbs, and that leaves empty properties," said Olgen Williams, Indianapolis deputy mayor for the Office of Neighborhoods. At last count, there are 9,000 to 10,000 abandoned houses in Indianapolis. Last year, the city demolished 675 of them, and it plans to tear down at least 250 more this year. How else can Indianapolis stem the suburban tide?www.indystar.com/fdcp/?1298307388815 3/7
  4. 4. 2/21/2011 Format Dynamics€::€Kodak Viewer Heather McMullen, an unassuming, brown- Bike lanes run along New York Street, haired 33-year-old, seems a little out of houses are being redeveloped off North place on Rural Street. She is, in fact, a Jefferson Avenue and a string of stores longtime suburbanite who moved away have opened along the new East 10th from what she calls a sea of "cookie-cutter" Street business corridor. homes to a place with more soul. Theres McMullens shop, the Little Green That led her to Englewood, a Near- Bean Boutique; the Made for Each Other Eastside neighborhood near Rural and community art gallery; The Turntable Washington streets. She owns a house that Shoppe; and Pogues Run Grocer, the citys has been there for decades and is first food co-op. surrounded by neighbors whove been there almost that long. "I couldnt have asked for a more successful opening. Business has been "Theres nothing ornate about my home," steady," said Greg Monzel, general McMullen said. "But I live in a community. I manager of the co-op, who also lives on live where people know my name." the Near Eastside. Increasingly, community is a buzzword on The residents efforts have been the Near Eastside. Long given a bad rap recognized and rewarded. for having an inordinate number of abandoned houses and all manner of The neighborhood is the home of the 2012 crime, the neighborhood is making a Super Bowl Legacy Project -- a distinction comeback. that will help lead to the building of a community recreation center on the It started in 2008, when hundreds of campus of Tech High School. residents met to figure out the best way to use community development funds from a Advertisement tax increment financing, or TIF, district. "What do we call a good quality of life for our community? What does that mean for us?" said James Taylor, executive director of the John H. Boner Community Center. They came up with a list of seven priorities, from housing redevelopment to education to connectivity to economic development. The results of their efforts are readily visible.www.indystar.com/fdcp/?1298307388815 4/7
  5. 5. 2/21/2011 Format Dynamics€::€Kodak Viewer "Theres a saying in community Fountain Square for nearly three years, development circles that perceptions of a describes the neighborhood as a place neighborhood have to change before the where she can walk to a local coffee shop neighborhood changes -- and theres and run into people who know her name. some truth to that," Taylor said. "This is a And despite stereotypes about crime, she place thats on the move, thats up and said, people tend to look out for one coming. And all of sudden, reality begins to another. follow that." "Its our Cheers, " the 29-year-old commercial real estate agent said. "Its a Fountain Square great neighborhood. All my neighbors are awesome." The Near Southside neighborhood of Fountain Square knows all about But with housing, Fountain Square remains perceptions. Its been up, down and is hit or miss. Street after street is lined with rising again. small, single-family homes. Some are well- kept, down to precisely placed decorations The neighborhood was once a thriving on the front door. Others have yards center of retail, dining and entertainment. strewn with trash, old furniture and Its decline began in the late 1960s, and childrens toys. Some are abandoned. the construction of the interstate compounded matters, dividing the "When we moved in, the Realtor said, Well, neighborhood. For years, residents left and this is one of those neighborhoods that businesses closed. could go either way, " said Elizabeth Ryan, who moved to Fountain Square with her Today, though, Fountain Square is a haven family about 13 years ago. for artists, entrepreneurs who live above their businesses, and an eclectic mix of bars and clubs. Advertisement Theres a palpable energy here, and much of it has emerged recently with the opening of businesses such as Pure Eatery, White Rabbit Cabaret, Square Rootz Deli and Siam Square. The neighborhood is one of the citys designated cultural districts and soon will become a stop on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Catherine Esselman, who has lived inwww.indystar.com/fdcp/?1298307388815 5/7
  6. 6. 2/21/2011 Format Dynamics€::€Kodak Viewer Today, she and her husband are pleased. of the mine would mean even more dust The neighborhood has gone from a place and noise. The Maywood Manor with a lot of noise and fights to one where Neighborhood Association is fighting the neighbors sit on each others porches and proposal, but Cooley says not enough help each other move furniture. residents are involved. Even her mother-in-law, who for years Farther west, in the depressed refused to visit because she envisioned neighborhood of Mars Hill, residents say Fountain Square as crime-ridden, is a property crime is a constant concern. convert. The VFW 908 along Kentucky Avenue lost "Ask her now, and shell say, This is such a more than $10,000 when a burglar stole great neighborhood, " Ryan said. "But ask the posts safe -- twice. Appliances also her 10 years ago, she was crying." have been stolen from the post. Still, most people in the neighborhood are Mars Hill/Maywood nice, said Dave Spaulding, the posts commander. On the Southwestside of Indianapolis, conditions arent as promising. "If you need assistance and they see it, theyre the first ones there," he said. As in other neighborhoods, residents of Maywood and Mars Hill tend to live in Despite the struggles of Mars Hill and other older, single-family homes. Some houses areas in the city, Cathy Burton, president of are well-maintained; many are not. the Marion County Alliance of Abandoned properties are common. The Neighborhood Associations, sees reason to potholes are so bad that driving is a hope for a revival of more neighborhoods. jarring, rim-rattling experience. Advertisement Rows of industrial plants add dreariness to the landscape. Blasting at the Kentucky Avenue Mine unleashes noise, shaking and dust. "Its just like an earthquake," said Willie Mae Cooley, a Maywood resident for nearly 50 years. "It moves the pictures on the wall and moves things on the mantle. You kind of have to make sure that nothing is on the edge of the shelf." Shes concerned that a planned expansionwww.indystar.com/fdcp/?1298307388815 6/7
  7. 7. 2/21/2011 Format Dynamics€::€Kodak Viewer Residents are beginning to care about their neighborhoods again and show it. People, she said, are looking for an anchor in rough economic times. Theyre looking for something they can control and change. "For several years, there was kind of a feeling of almost helplessness," she said. "We have to believe that (neighborhoods) will improve. We have to." Call Star reporter Erika D. Smith at (317) 444-6424. Related Links Near-Southside area has seen better days Beyond the Big Game: Whats after the Super Bowl? Advertisementwww.indystar.com/fdcp/?1298307388815 7/7

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