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UIndy to host launch for quality-of-life study

News conference and bus tour begin 10 a.m. Thursday in Fine Arts Center

Potential study area (click to enlarge)
Potential study area (click to enlarge)

Government, business and community leaders will gather Thursday morning at UIndy for a news conference and bus tour announcing the start of an important quality-of-life study and planning process for the neighborhoods surrounding the university campus, historic Garfield Park and the Madison Avenue corridor.

As announced Tuesday by Fifth Third Bank, ongoing revitalization efforts in the area will receive a major boost from the bank this year through a $100,000 grant to fund the plan, which is intended to spur economic development and help build a more sustainable community.

The 4.25 square-mile focus area (bound by Raymond Street, I-65, I-465 and Meridian Street) faces many challenges, including a 20 percent poverty rate, higher-than-average unemployment and a plethora of empty homes and storefronts. The Strengthening Our Communities Fund Grant from Fifth Third Bank, Greater Indiana, will support an 18-month Quality of Life Plan that will identify ways to strengthen all aspects of life in the neighborhood and create a vision for the future for an area rich in tradition but with a history of migrating businesses and residents.

“This grant will strengthen our community partnership and support the ongoing progress on the Southside,” said Steven Alonso, president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank, Greater Indiana. “Fifth Third is proud to contribute to the comprehensive community and economic development strategy to improve the quality of life for residents and business owners in the area.”

Several neighborhood organizations and government agencies also will be involved in the Quality of Life Plan. A press conference and bus tour of the neighborhood will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday in the west lobby of UIndy’s Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. The initiative’s leaders will discuss the plan in more detail before taking a guided tour to see firsthand how the plan can impact and enhance the neighborhood. Residents, business owners, local government officials and bank leaders will attend.

Fifth Third Bank has partnered with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the University of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership in this effort. These organizations have focused efforts to revitalize the Southside in recent years, and LISC (the grant recipient) and UIndy will lead the charge to engage residents and business owners to contribute to the study and planning. Fifth Third Bank, Greater Indiana, is the first financial institution to support comprehensive community and economic development in this area.

The project will organize stakeholders to decide collectively on the priorities for the neighborhood and act on those priorities. Fifth Third will contribute $100,000, and LISC and UIndy have agreed to raise an additional $70,000 to support the planning process.

“We know that neighborhoods can be revitalized when they have sufficient capital, technical expertise and political will to support their unique agendas. Quality of Life plans have proven to be a great vehicle for attracting these resources,” said Bill Taft, executive director of LISC.

“Enhancing the quality of life in this part of the city is a core component of UIndy’s strategy for the future, and we’re committing significant resources to that end,” university President Robert Manuel said. “It’s great to have this particular mix of partners joining in the effort, because the kind of change we intend to bring about can only occur through collaboration.”

The Indianapolis City-County Council recently approved the creation of the Madison Avenue Corridor Economic Development Area, which opens the door for even more economic stimulus to the area. LISC and UIndy were heavily involved in supporting this initiative, and the Quality of Life Plan will help drive additional enhancements to the Southside.

UIndy has pledged a five-year, $50 million investment program for the campus and surrounding area that will include a renovated library, new housing and physical and mental health facilities to serve the community. The City of Indianapolis recently announced a substantial federal grant for Southside enhancements and supported the creation of a rapid transit line that would travel through the area via a route along Shelby Street and U.S. 31 from Hamilton County in the north to Johnson County in the south. Southside leaders point to these initiatives as proof that the area is ripe for redevelopment.