Insurer lending $7M for east-side Super Bowl project

State Farm Insurance announced Monday morning it will lend $7 million to Indianapolis’ efforts to revitalize the near-east side as part of a 2012 Super Bowl project.

A major part of the city’s bid to host the game was the National Football League’s so-called “legacy project.” The aim is to spur redevelopment on the city’s blighted near-east side by rehabbing or building about 300 housing units and constructing an indoor training facility at Arsenal Tech High School.

The loan from the Bloomington, Ill.-based insurer is to be repaid within 10 years at a 3.5-percent annual interest rate. The plan is to pay off the loan from any profits organizers make from reselling refurbished homes.

Half of the loan amount will be used for residential development and the remainder for commercial projects, said James Taylor, CEO of the John H. Boner Community Center.

The two organizers of the legacy project, the Boner Community Center and the Super Bowl Host Committee, hope investments lead to a multimillion-dollar gentrification of the surrounding area.  

“It is a very exciting day for us,” Taylor said. “Investments like State Farm’s will ensure that the legacy of the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl will live much longer than just one game in February.”

The near-east side has been plagued with high rates of home foreclosure and abandonment.

About four in 10 houses are unoccupied in the neighborhood, which is bounded by Interstate 70 to the north, Washington Street to the south, Interstate 65 to the west and Emerson Avenue to the east.

The Boner Center so far has purchased 26 abandoned homes. Taylor estimated the cost to purchase and renovate the homes at about $4 million. A large chunk of the funding for that portion of the project, $2.5 million, will come from the city, which plans a total contribution of $4.8 million to the legacy project.

The state of Indiana also will kick in $1 million. And in early February, the charitable arm of the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors announced it is contributing $500,000 to help renovate 30 vacant homes and build two new houses.  

They hope to have the first home built by the end of the year and also plan to support future home-remodeling and construction projects from any proceeds they might make from sales.

The idea is to have residents of the Jefferson Apartments purchase some of the homes. The complex, near the Boner Center at 10th and Jefferson streets, consists of 18 rental units and two condominiums that became available earlier this month. The apartments are a “homeownership incubator,” where residents get help finding jobs and cleaning up their credit, so they might one day buy homes in the area.

“This investment will boost the near-east side’s already growing capacity to fund affordable-housing development and commercial redevelopment,” Mayor Greg Ballard said in a written statement.

State Farm said it provides loans such as the one for the legacy project to help neighborhoods become “safer, stronger and better-educated.”

The Boner center began embarking on a revitalization plan in January 2008, as part of the Great Indy Neighborhoods initiative. That program helped attract the NFL to the near-east side after Indianapolis won the bid in May 2008 to host the Super Bowl.

Objectives of the two programs are separated into four areas: housing redevelopment; economic development, with an emphasis on the 10th Street corridor; promoting the neighborhood; and the training facility at Arsenal Tech, which will be available for community use following the Super Bowl.

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