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EDITORIAL: Planets align for near-east side as TWG, others invest in key corridor

August 26, 2017

It’s been decades since the stretch of Washington Street immediately east of downtown had something big to celebrate, but that’s about to change.

Advocates of the corridor are about to get a $36.8 million shot of enthusiasm thanks to TWG Development, which is set to spend that much to redevelop a four-story, 200,000-square-foot former Ford Motor Co. plant at 1301 E. Washington St. into its headquarters, 132 apartments and ground-floor retail space.

As IBJ reported last week, the project could grow to include a building next door that houses an automotive program offered by Ivy Tech Community College. Ivy Tech, which is planning to construct a larger building to house the program, confirmed it’s in negotiations to sell the building to TWG.

Ivy Tech hasn’t announced where it’s moving, but relocating within the neighborhood would be another vote of confidence for the corridor, which up to now has racked up small victories but nothing as potentially transformational as the TWG development.

The corridor extends from the Interstate 65 interchange on the east edge of downtown to Irvington more than 40 blocks east. For too long, it has served mainly as a commuter route between downtown and far-flung suburbs. But now TWG has taken note of its potential, thanks in part to the groundwork laid by a local not-for-profit.

Englewood Community Development Corp., with assistance from the Indianapolis office of Local Initiatives Support Corp. and others, has been working mostly behind the scenes for years to engineer a turnaround.

It’s good to see that hard work finally begin to pay off, not that this is TWG’s first project in the corridor. It partnered with Englewood on the now-fully-leased Oxford Senior Apartments, a 30-unit project near Washington and Oxford streets. A second, 39-unit phase, is about to start and a third phase is in the planning stages.

What East Washington Street needs more than bricks and mortar is jobs, which are beginning to trickle in thanks to companies like Team 360 Services, which moved less than two years ago to a building near Washington and Koweba Lane and now employs 200. And the not-for-profit Exodus Refugee Immigration, which moved recently to an old printing plant in the 2400 block. The Indianapolis Enterprise Center, near Washington and State Avenue, boasts nearly 100 mostly small tenants in its 200,000 square feet of space.

Other signs of hope come from a local cultural organization that is scouting the corridor for space and from Purdue University, which continues to negotiate with the city to locate its new Purdue Polytechnic High School in an old P.R. Mallory plant at Washington and Gray streets. A few restaurants have sprung up as well, and IndyGo’s proposed Blue Line bus rapid transit route promises to improve access to the area.

We applaud TWG, Englewood and others who’ve rolled up their sleeves to revive the Washington Street corridor. We hope others see fit to build on what they’ve started. •

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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