Anderson redefining its future with new companies, cultural opportunities

An aerial view of downtown Anderson, Indiana. (WTHR)
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ANDERSON, Ind. (WTHR) — Just a stones throw away from the legendary WigWam where Friday night basketball rang supreme decades ago, there's a new sound of hope and resiliency.

Eyewitness News' Andrea Morehead asked Anderson resident Tonya Garca, "Are the glory days over?"

"Naw, they're not over. They're just actually starting!" she said.

The auto industry was the heartbeat of Anderson for decades until about 20 years ago.

"I think it hurt for sure. Real sad. There was nothing going on," said former GM worker Stanley Leeman.

General Motors, Guide and Delco Remy left and in its wake, a slow ripple effect of economic decline.

The retirees were keeping the places open because there really wasn't that much more business," said Leeman.

With a declining population, some houses were abandoned and some schools closed, but the shift didn't destroy the heart and soul of the people.
The city has been intentional about reinventing itself and attracting companies like Nestle.

The Nestle plant in Anderson (WTHR)

Anderson Mayor Thomas J. Broderick Jr. said, "We do have a lot of companies coming from internationally here. We have nine different companies represented in our community and we've just reached out to those folks to let them know that this is a good place to do business."

Optimism is more than just a word, it's a feeling, and you can see it at every turn, including road improvements, new apartments, single-family construction and a state-of-the-art, three-story transportation hub.

"The bus terminal will be a mixed-use, from restaurants to a business office," Broderick said.

And in the midst of the mainstay restaurants, the city is experiencing a culinary renaissance.
The Burro Loco opened its doors five years ago.

"We take a shot, we try, so far, it's OK," said Javier Jaime, the manager of the Mexican restaurant. "Before we come here, Anderson downtown it was kind of slow down, a little bit too much, so we see a great opportunity to bring business downtown."

The Burro Loco, a Mexican restaurant, opened five years ago in Anderson. (WTHR)

A block away on Meridian Street, the empty storefronts invite more opportunities that are taking off like the bungee studio Arial Fit 2 Fly.

"It made us very nervous thinking is this gonna work. It's kind of a new concept. How are people going to react to this? But if feels great to have clients here," said Co-owner Lindsay Montgomery.

The new still honors the past. The studio is in the former home of Frish's Big Boy.

"It had holes in the concrete floor, there was no drywall," Montgomery said. "There was a drop down ceiling we tore down. We ran about 150 feet of electrical underneath the sidewalk outside. Rewired the whole inside."

Support along the corridor is not just from clients.

"The two breweries downtown, the distillery and the brewery actually give our guests half-off drinks for the evening just for attending our class," Arial Fit 2 Fly co-owner Charity Reese said.

"For them (the city) to be able to make funds available and open doors for people is great," Dan Hiles said. He left his position at nearby Nestle two years ago to open the bar and restaurant "Kettle Top" just across the street from the historic Paramount Theater.

"My focus was anytime anyone comes here to see a show at the Paramount, or just comes for somebody's get together, or family reunion, we gotta' have things for them to do, places to go, places to stay and your experience has to be top notch," said Hiles.

And a block away, Hiles just opened the new brewery, "Creatures of Habit" on the other side of Dickmann Park.

The grand opening of Anderson business, Creatures of Habit. (WTHR)

Hiles said, "The realization that hey, we gotta make this city really believe. They got a backbone, standing up straight, and let's get this thing moving forward."

Anderson's rebirth is a living testament that while change is inevitable, it's important to positively redefine your identity and support new efforts to live, work and play.

"To be right here and to see where it was, where it could be and where it's going, striving, because of that it makes me feel really good," said long-time resident Dexter Stovall.

They're singing and dancing to a different tune now, in a place they're proud to call home.

To learn more about Anderson, visit cityofanderson.com.

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