With the help of some friends, I had an opportunity to spend a portion of yesterday with Paul Baumgarten, the Fountain Square Main Street Manager. Fountain Square is an Indianapolis neighborhood, roughly the size of New Albany and similarly located near a large metro business center, that's experienced significant reinvestment in the past decade or so, thanks largely to the efforts of SEND, Southeast Neighborhood Development, of which Paul's Main Street program is a part.
As we look for examples of what "we" can do, SEND provides ample evidence of what can happen when neighborhood leaders pursue revitalization in an organized, cooperative manner that seeks to increase capacity. From two volunteer groups, they've transformed into a highly skilled professional organization with a staff of ten and the financial clout to tackle multimillion dollar projects.
I'll let them explain the history:
The 1970s were a difficult time for the southeast side of Indianapolis. The construction of I-65 destroyed thousands of homes, hundreds of businesses, and many key schools and churches, while cutting a unified neighborhood into isolated pockets. The problem was compounded by the nationwide effects of suburban flight and disinvestment in urban neighborhoods.
So a group of forward-thinking residents and businesspeople working out of the Southeast Multi-Service Center began leading small home repair and urban design projects. On February 23, 1983, this group incorporated as the Fountain Square & Fletcher Place Investment Corporation. At the same time, a second group grew out of neighborhood churches to form the Fountain Square Church & Community Project, and attracted hundreds of volunteers from around the region to rebuild affordable homes.
Several years later, these groups merged to form Southeast Neighborhood Development (SEND). Since 1991, SEND has invested more than $35 million dollars in affordable housing, commercial renovation, youth development, and greenspace improvements. SEND has:
* Transformed more than 130 deteriorated and vacant houses into affordable homes.
* Repaired more than 400 homes to make them safer and more energy efficient for the homeowners, some of whom have been in their homes for over 50 years.
* Developed 135 affordable apartments for residents ranging from senior citizens, to families, to artists.
* Renovated and leased more than 150,000 square feet of commercial space.
* Helped train more than 300 youth to help rebuild their community.
* Created or improved six parks and planted hundreds of trees along roads throughout the neighborhood.
These efforts have made a vast difference. Today, property values have increased approximately 90%, allowing home owners to maintain and improve their homes with confidence that they can recover their money. A growing number of new residents are investing SEND neighborhoods with leadership and new ideas. Vital services such as a quality library, a police station, and a new health clinic meet resident needs. Businesses are now acquiring space in the Fountain Square commercial area—and Fountain Square is now one of six Indianapolis Cultural Districts.
SEND, like their Fountain Square neighborhood, is worth checking out.