Million-dollar federal grants don’t come around very often for community development groups and neighborhood organizations. But when they do, they often come with stringent requirements that can delay implementation.
The Irvington Development Organization (IDO) has spent much of the last decade working to implement a two-part Federal Transportation Enhancement Program grant for the Irvington Streetscape, an effort to revitalize the East Washington Street corridor. The grant was originally awarded in 2004 and 2005 and required planning, patience and local financial contributions.
A key aspect of the planning focused on revitalizing the corridor while still respecting important historic elements, including old trolley lines and its place on the historic National Road. IDO has plans to preserve what is good about the neighborhood’s past, especially its pedestrian-friendly nature, and to make sure it is ready for a vibrant future. The group has raised and exceeded the mandatory 20 percent local match in project funding required by the grant.
|Sidewalk improvements include new and improved curbs and walkways.|
With the required local contributions exceeding $250,000 and additional investment from the city, the Irvington Streetscape project planners have raised enough funds to launch the project. Following a May groundbreaking, construction crews have moved into the neighborhood to begin work. Workers are adding 4,000 linear feet of new or repaired curbs and sidewalks, 21 ramps that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, resurfaced roads and 74 new trees and shrubs. Planners hope that the construction can be completed before the community’s annual Halloween celebration.
A Community of Contributors
Faced with the grant requirement of raising $250,000, IDO has focused on creating a broad and diverse group of funders. Several businesses and organizations including The Indianapolis Foundation, Kenra LTD, Citizens Gas, Community Hospital, National City Bank and others have given funds in support of the Irvington Streetscape. Beyond these donors, many residents and small businesses are financial contributors, as well.
“We’ve seen everything from five- and ten-dollar bills to checks for $5,000,” says Margaret Lawrence Banning, Interim Director of the Irvington Development Organization. “Irvington is a neighborhood of joiners, and everyone is excited about the project.”
The community’s support is clear, even in the face of torn-up sidewalks and road closures. Residents and visitors continue to stop by businesses on the Washington Street Corridor. This is a positive sign for project organizers and local merchants, as increasing tenant rates and foot traffic is a core goal of the project.
Springboard to Success
The Irvington Streetscape effort and the process required to plan and implement it have helped the community develop a larger vision for the neighborhood’s commercial area. Merchants and community leaders are focused on making the area attractive to a multigenerational swath of Indianapolis and to investors. Alongside long-standing businesses, newer ventures including Jockamo Pizza and Black Acre Brewing Co. are bringing new attention to the area. In addition to new concrete, plants and medians from the streetscape effort, a grant from Local Initiatives Support Corporation Indianapolis affords new signage and façade improvements for storefronts.
|Black Acre Brewing Co. will donate $1 for each pint of its "Street Lamp Blonde" ale to support Irvington streetlights.|
“Irvington has been on this cusp of getting to the next level for a while,” says Nancy Ruschman, Irvington resident and volunteer. “The more this core becomes an anchor, the more the panache [from the core] will ripple out into the rest of the neighborhood.”
Amanda Mauer Taflinger, owner of Homespun, an Irvington boutique and gallery focused on celebrating and selling handmade products, is re-investing in the neighborhood. Homespun plans to open a new workshop space in late July on Audubon, near East Washington, in addition to their Washington Street storefront.
“The streetscape is a good catalyst for more development and more neighborhood pride,” says Mauer Taflinger. “As people see more happening, they’re more willing to help and to bring their ideas and time to make things better.”
More about The Indianapolis Foundation.
Read about another street improvement project that received CICF support, Alice Carter Place Park.
Photos courtesy of the Irvington Development Organization.