Neighborhood Visionary: Amandula Anderson

Amandula-compressed-150x150On Indianapolis’s eastside, the East Washington Street corridor that runs through historic Irvington Corridor is bustling with small businesses, artists, and young professionals—and an eclectic mix of stores, restaurants, and hip places to live. But it hasn’t always been this way.

East Washington’s transformation from a run-down business district full of empty shops to a vibrant cultural epicenter didn’t happen overnight. It took a significant coordinated effort and countless hours of strategic planning and execution.

And Amandula Anderson, former executive director of the Irvington Development Organization, was at the center of it all.

It all started when Amandula noticed development plans for Irvington as part of the Fostering Commercial Urban Strategies (FOCUS) program. FOCUS is a partnership among LISC, the City of Indianapolis, the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, and the Indianapolis Coalition for Neighborhood development that provides financial and technical assistance for local economic development.

When Amandula first accepted her position as executive director of the Irvington Development Organization, she knew that Irvington could become one of Indianapolis’s premier neighborhoods.

“Ten years ago when I came to Washington Street, it was a dilapidated corridor. But I still sensed tremendous pride in this neighborhood. I knew that with hard work and dedication, we could make Irvington a desirable place to live and work again,” said Amandula.

She was right. With help from LISC, Amandula spearheaded an ambitious community development initiative that has revitalized the neighborhood with new businesses, a growing population of young people, and a distinctive modern look. “We’re the little neighborhood that could,” said Amandula. “And LISC has been our right hand in helping to improve Irvington. They’ve been with us every step of the way.”

To get the ball rolling, the Irvington Development Organization and LISC collaborated to create an economic development plan designed to revitalize the culture and spirit of Irvington. They secured a $2,000,000 transportation grant to improve East Washington with trees, planters, benches, decorative lighting, updated signage, artwork, and other amenities that add to the neighborhood’s unique style. It’s all in an effort to bring back the historic character of Irvington, while also promoting a greater sense of community pride.

Growing small business has been a major focal point of the Irvington revitalization. And even with the economic downturn, business in the neighborhood has been booming, much of it thanks to façade grants from LISC that have helped enhance the appearance of Irvington’s many storefronts.

“We’ve had a tremendous response from business owners in the neighborhood. It’s an exciting time to be in Irvington. There’s a great entrepreneurial sprit here,” said Amandula.

And while Amandula is still active within the Irvington community, she’s moved on to other development initiatives that she’s just as passionate about. She’s enjoying her current position as executive director of the United North East Community Development Corporation where she’s using her talents and experience to coordinate the revitalization of other eastside neighborhoods.  And even though the residents of Irvington may miss having Amandula as executive director of their development organization, one thing’s for sure—Amandula will have a positive, lasting impact wherever she goes.