The Old Southside neighborhood is the new target of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s community development investment program, Lift Indy, which will direct about $4 million in investment to the area over the next three years.
The program, which was launched a year ago, targets neighborhoods with a large portion of federal grants that the city receives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is designed to fund economic development opportunities, affordable housing, infrastructure updates and “creative place making,” according to Hogsett.
The funds will help the neighborhood and its partners invest in upgrades to the area's local park and improve the infrastructure of South Meridian Street, as well as build several hundred new units of affordable and market-rate housing.
Judith Essex, president of the Old Southside Neighborhood Association, said the funds are “going to provide many, many opportunities for the neighborhood.”
“Kelly Park is going to be improved,” she said. “Meridian Street is going to look wonderful, but my passion is for the affordable housing portion of this program. The Old Southside has always been very diverse, and we must do everything we can to maintain that balance. I’ve always said ‘Show me the money and I’ll build those houses.’ So, thank you, mayor, for showing us the money.”
The funds also will be used to create a homeowner repair program and for efforts related to community vibrancy, according to Emily Mack, director of economic development for the city. Mack said the projects are in various stages of planning.
The Old Southside neighborhood is bounded by South Street on the north, Madison Avenue to the east, the CSX Railroad line and Adler Street to the south, and the White River to the west. Morris Street and McCarty Street are key roadways through the district, which was settled by Irish and German workers, many of the Catholic and Jewish faiths, in the 1830s.
Hogsett said the city chose the neighborhood because it is “home to some of the city’s longest-running institutions,” from Shapiro’s Deli to the religious community and Concord Neighborhood Center.
Tom Dale of the Stadium Village Business Association said people in the neighborhood have been “down here laboring for many years” trying to put the pieces together that would lead to an investment along these lines.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this investment and all the while, over these last 20 or 30 years, been trying to keep our neighborhood stable,” Dale said, encouraging people to move into or open businesses in the neighborhood. “Help us write another chapter.”
The Old Southside is the second neighborhood chosen as part of the Lift Indy program, which Mack said is about “making the biggest impact with our limited resources, and prioritizing our investments in a way that will result in equitable and sustainable change.”
“The areas we’re investing in are those with a higher potential for market change,” Mack said. “These are areas that are on the edge of market momentum. These are areas that are starting to see some market activity now but they need our help and they need some investment to really push the real estate market so it can begin to grow organically.”
Just north of downtown, the Monon16 district, which was chosen for Lift Indy investment last year, has seen more than 30 houses under construction or rehabbed by various community development groups, and the creation of six new businesses with more than 50 jobs. In addition, four brownfield sites have been closed on.
“Frankly if you have not been to Monon16 lately, go, and see what has happened in that neighborhood in just this last year,” Hogsett said.