Neighborhood puts business on "probation"

Capitol Tire and Quick Lube at 38th & Capitol has been put on probation by neighbors.
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A neighborhood group fed up with crime and blight along one of the city's busiest corridors is trying something new.

It has basically put one business on probation for six months, with the owner agreeing to it. It's a tactic Midtown Indianapolis hopes to use more as they work to improve the 38th Street corridor between Fall Creek and Michigan Road.

Michael McKillip, who heads the group which represents several north side neighborhoods, said, "This is a very hot and intense strip of property here and all the neighborhoods have said 'We're tired of it and want to see change.'"

McKillip said the stretch just west of Meridian ranks especially high for police runs and code violations. Holding a packet, he flipped thru hundreds of them.

"What these things are is blight, so when people talk about blight it means a violation of rules in the community and they are extensive in this corridor," McKillip said.

He calls Capitol Tire and Quick Lube at 202 W. 38th St. one of the top offenders, having been cited 42 times over 10 years. Those violations include working on cars in the parking lot, constant litter and trash and an illegal shed built to store used tires.

So when owner Jesse Singh proposed building a new storage facility, neighbors vowed to fight it unless Singh paid his fines and came into compliance. They gave him six months.

"It was sort of like probation. He was on his way out as far as the neighborhood was concerned," McKillip said.

Singh told Eyewitness News he agreed to deal because he wants to be a good neighbor and keep his business.

"The only thing I want to do is to have a shed to store my tires. It's costing me every month to store them (elsewhere)," Singh said. "I know the (illegal) shed looked rundown, so if they're trying to better the neighborhood, I'm for it."

A month into the probation, Singh said he's moved the dumpster, picked up the trash, stopped working on cars in the parking lot and made some other improvements.

"He's getting closer, but he's still not there," McKillip said.

Putting the pressure on businesses that break the rules is a tactic Midtown plans to use more, even for things like loitering.

"In a community plagued with public safety challenges, these rules are all we have to clean up our neighborhood," McKillip said.

The get-tough approach comes as Midtown looks to major improvements, such as a $5 million makeover of Tarkington Park and new storefronts for several businesses along Illinois Street just north of 38th Street.

Hugh Barfield, who has lived in the area for 60 years, said he's glad to see the neighborhood group getting more aggressive.

"When things are abandoned or neglected, that gives outsiders or intruders the idea that nobody cares about it," Barfield said. "So they can come into a neighborhood, set up shop and do what they choose to do."

Kristen Leep moved her screenprinting business to the area last year. She also supports Midtown's approach.

"They've redone the streetlights and everything and things and they've really put a lot of good energy and effort into making this a really nice area, so you have to protect that," Leep said. "It's up to the neighborhood to come together and decide what's acceptable."

And in this case, attention is focused on the used tire shop.

According to the city's Department of Code Enforcement, Singh has at least one outstanding violation. He said he intends to take care of that with the hope of winning neighborhood approval for the storage facility at a zoning hearing expected in December.