Fifth Third Bank plans to invest up to $20 million to boost Indianapolis’ Arlington Woods neighborhood, in partnership with Eastern Star Church, the company announced Wednesday.
“We believe this will be a catalyst for other businesses and investors to join Fifth Third in recognizing the tremendous assets that already exist in this neighborhood,” said Fifth Third Regional President Mike Ash at an event Wednesday. “Ultimately, we hope this leads to transformational change.”
Fifth Third plans to spend the money over three years. About $2 million will go to the 100-year-old Eastern Star to support its ambitious quality-of-life ROCK Initiative. The church has already built an urban farm, houses and an affordable apartment complex with a bank and grocery store, and is finishing construction on a community center. It plans to add a new middle school, more affordable housing, retail space and additional green space.
Fifth Third is based in Cincinnati, but has more than 40 branches throughout the Indianapolis area.
The banking company’s investment in Arlington Woods is part of its larger, $2.2 billion Neighborhood Investment Program featuring eight other cities around the country. More than 20 neighborhoods applied to participate.
Fifth Third will focus on strategic investments, access to capital, financial inclusion, education, and social justice and advocacy, said Jada Grandy-Mock, chief corporate community economic development officer.
Through an onboarding process with national not-for-profit Enterprise Community Partners, which is providing technical assistance, Eastern Star will help decide how to spend the other $18 million. It will likely include programs geared toward mortgage access, capital access for small businesses and other education resources, said Leigh Evans, the church’s community development director.
“We must find more creative ways to make this a reality in more neighborhoods in Indianapolis,” said Deputy Mayor Judith Thomas. “This is how we can all work together to empower those of us who have been marginalized in the past.”
All of the investment into Arlington Woods represents ongoing changes for the northeast-side neighborhood, where more than 75% of the population consists of people of color and has a poverty rate nearing 30%.
Resident Courtney Kendrick said she would have hesitated to live in Arlington Woods five years ago. But she’s been at Sunstone at Arlington Woods, Eastern Star’s mixed-use apartment complex, for two years now, and expressed optimism over what’s next.
“I can’t express how amazing this opportunity is,” said Kendrick, a fifth-generation Eastern Star member. “… And to know what the neighborhood used to be and what it can be, not only for myself, but kids and for all generations. We have the senior community over here, we have the elementary school here, we’ve got the garden and the store, and the high school over here, [all] as a part of the church. It’s incredible.”