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Two years after Indianapolis Public Schools closed School 37, a multimillion-dollar redevelopment project is set to breath
new life into a building that had served the Martindale-Brightwood community for 81 years.

Central Indiana Community Foundation is spearheading the plan to transform the 52,000-square-foot former school into a community
center. Construction is scheduled to begin in September, even as organizers work to raise the $2.5 million to $3 million necessary
to complete the project.

“Finally, we have something that belongs to the community,” said neighborhood resident Peggy Storey, 73. “It
is ours.”

IPS gave the property to Marion County, which in June agreed to lease it to CICF. The foundation got involved because of
a longstanding relationship with the near-northeast-side community and with Paul Estridge Jr., a Carmel-based home builder
and CICF donor.

Estridge Cos. built a house in Martindale-Brightwood for ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in April
2009, and the CEO wanted to do more.

After some minor plumbing work, the building was put to use this summer as a day camp and Goodwill day reporting center for
troubled youth. Now the transformation begins.

First comes fundraising. In April, the project received preliminary approval for a $1 million matching grant from United
Way of Central Indiana.

The project’s fundraising committee will look to cover remaining expenses through financial and in-kind donations—free
or discounted services from vendors—company service projects and an “adopt-a-room” program for businesses,
which will allow local companies to get their name on one of the community center's rooms by making a gift, contributing
volunteer labor or helping to raise money.

Organizers also are planning a community volunteer day in September.

“We want people to participate in this,” said chief fundraiser Rosemary Dorsa, CICF’s vice president for
partnerships and special initiatives.

More than half of the 40,000 square feet of usable space has been rented already, with the Edna Martin Christian Center reserving
16,000 square feet for a child- and senior care and Kingsley Terrace Child Development Center planning to use another 5,000.

Tenant recruiters are in talks with the YMCA about building a fitness center inside as well, said Michael Richardson, School
37 Redevelopment Project manager and CICF staff member. CICF also is negotiating lease options with Martindale-Brightwood
Community Development Corp., Greater Citizens Coalition of Martindale-Brightwood and Bangladesh-based micro-lender Grameen
Bank.

Dorsa and CDC Executive Director Josephine Rogers visited a similar school-turned-community center in San Antonio to get
ideas. That facility is occupied by a variety of groups and businesses—the Center for Work & Families, San Antonio
Children’s Museum, and Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, among others—much like what is planned
for School 37, Dorsa explained. Rogers said it served as the “hub of the community,” with art, dancing and singing
programs, as well as a computer lab and job-training classes.

It’s a prototype for School 37, but a great deal of work still remains.

First up: A new heating and cooling system, fire suppression equipment and an elevator—for Americans with Disabilities
Act compliance—must be installed before tenants can move in, Richardson said. The building’s last major renovation
was in 1972.

Ideally, this “functional repurposing” will be complete by fall 2011, said Estridge, whose homebuilding company
serves as the project’s unofficial construction consultant and overseer.

Even if the $3 million is raised and redevelopment goes as planned, the center’s long-term survival could remain a
question, said David Reingold, professor and executive assistant dean of Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental
Affairs.

Planners must evaluate the long-term operating costs, Reingold said. Often, donors will support construction projects, then
assume the center will become self-sufficient, which he said oftentimes isn’t the case.

The responsible solution is to require a “companion gift” like many universities do, he said. When a donor makes
a pledge to help construct a building, he also must provide something for continued maintenance.

Dorsa said companion gifts will not be required of School 37 donors. Once the center is fully occupied, the facility is expected
to generate enough rental income to cover an estimated $350,000 in annual expenses.

And for the community to grow, the center must survive.

Despite a population of about 9,000, Martindale-Brightwood doesn’t have a place for the community to gather, many sources
agreed. A thriving community center also could help improve the neighborhood’s image, Dorsa said.
 

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