Super Bowl promises revitalize east side neighborhood
A year after city and NFL leaders promised revitalization on the east side of Indianapolis, residents say they are seeing results.
Last February, Indianapolis was hip deep in football fans, Super Bowl hype and big expectations. NFL officials joined city and community leaders to break ground on the Near East Side Legacy project.
They made huge promises to residents of one of the city's neglected neighborhoods. Are they coming true? Is the Super Bowl's legacy the real deal? Residents and community leaders told Eyewitness News Tuesday "Yes." We found an area businesses and families were living, is now a neighborhood people want to live and businesses are finding opportunities.
There are dozens of new homes and a new grocery with fresh produce and meat. New businesses have arrived and more are coming. A first class community center is almost always busy and residents are moving in to brand new apartments and condominiums.
The necessities of life most neighborhoods take for granted, nearly brought Heidi Hughes to tears as she checked out her new digs.
"I think it is exciting things are happening in our neighborhood," she said, smiling.
A neighborhood plagued with crime, urban blight and flight, the near east side has received more investment money in 18 months than it has in decades.
"The near east side has its swagger back," said James Taylor, CEO of the Legacy Center. "There is a renews sense of confidence. There is a renewed sense of optimism. People's perception has changed."
The Legacy Center has 2,500 members, many coming from other sides of the city. Mary Carr drives from Wanamaker and admits she never thought she would willingly drive to the east side.
"I probably thought it was a little dangerous," she said. "Now, I don't have any problem coming down at all."
The facility also provides educational programs for thousands of children and space for hundreds of community meetings.
Belynda Williams grew up here and left.
"(Now) I can be part of something that's future. I know it's going to grow and get better," she said with a hint of pride in her voice.
Much of the money is being spent reviving dying neighborhoods. One in five homes were in foreclosure, 40 percent of the homes were empty and abandoned. The neighborhood group couldn't remember the last time someone actually bought a house and moved in. In just 18 months, 24 homes have built or renovated and sold. Some commanded prices of nearly $140,000, which was unheard of a few years ago.
Now, new businesses are starting to fill long vacant buildings. Heather McMullen's clothing store was among the first.
Is there money to be made here?
"Yes," she answered, "we are actually in the planning right now with our building owner to expand to the place next door."
Opportunities next door to downtown, where for years, there was only despair.
To see what else is happening on the near east side, check out any of these web sites: