The University of Indianapolis, along with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation or LISC, and some local business owners have come together to create an action plan to improve the quality of life in southern Indianapolis.
The Quality of Life Plan is about “engaging eight neighborhoods in South Indy to implement a vision for equitable community development,” according to the plan’s website, www.soindy.org.
In order to make any real change in the area, all aspects of life and community must be addressed, said LISC Deputy Director Tedd Grain.
“This really is a comprehensive community development approach,” Grain said. “You can’t just fix one thing in a neighborhood and expect it to improve overall.… You can’t just improve housing, but you have to focus also on education, parks, connectivity and transportation also.”
LISC seeks to connect the people and places of urban Indianapolis to new opportunities and implement positive changes, according to Grain.
Executive Vice President and Provost of UIndy David Wantz said Southern Indianapolis has been overlooked, in some aspects, as development has occurred in other places around the city. As the largest employer in the area, the university has an obligation to uphold, said Wantz.
“When the university took Indianapolis as its name, it assumed duties and responsibilities to the city,” Wantz said. “We grow where we are planted.”
The plan relies upon the cooperation of many different groups, businesses and residents, according to Wantz. It is the result of more than a year’s worth of coordination and conversations.
“[One reason we need this plan is that] we can’t develop the entire community on our own,” Wantz said. “If we want anything to happen, we have to work together. The overall goal is for this plan to articulate the community’s desire for the kind of place it wants to be.”
Many business owners involved in the creation and implementation of the plan have called southern Indianapolis their home their whole lives.
“As a business owner, I took a great deal of interest in the whole process,” said owner of Direct Connect Printing on Hanna Avenue and member of the Madison Avenue Corridor action team Robin Heldman. “My husband and I are lifelong southsiders. We are very passionate about our business, where our business is and where we live.… I would really like to see the South-Side regain and redevelop its charm, like how it used to be.”
There are many things that can be done to support the neighborhood, such as shopping at local businesses and being good neighbors, according to Wantz.
“When we respect each other’s concerns, it strengthens our bond, so we can work together,” Wantz said.
Students or area residents who want to help out with the plan can join one of many different action teams created under the plan, including “Community Building, Connectivity, Education and Workforce, Health and Wellness, Housing, Madison Avenue and Shelby Street Corridor,” according to the website at www.soindy.org.
According to the website, the teams hope to “develop a connectivity master plan emphasizing healthy corridors, economic impact, and accessibility … support on-the-job training with local industry, encourage urban farming and fresh food access … [and] transform Shelby Street into a village community with public art, thriving local businesses, and improved connectivity.”
“Every neighborhood has challenges and each has unique opportunities,” Grain said. “[That’s why we] put together an action plan for the neighborhood, to help focus on keeping things that are unique to the area while also making partnerships between business owners and residents.”
Heldman said she is optimistic that good changes are coming soon.
Heldman said, “I just want to bring back the community I knew and fell in love with growing up.”