Neighborhood Visionary: Jackie Nytes

JackieNytes-229x300When Jackie Nytes first moved to Indianapolis’s Mapleton Fall Creek community in 1981, the neighborhood was in dire shape. Homes were vacant and abandoned, property values were low, and many residents seemed unconcerned about the state of their neighborhood.

But Jackie didn’t see the Mapleton Fall Creek Neighborhood as a problem. She saw it as an opportunity. It was a chance to help restore one of Indianapolis’s great neighborhoods. So Jackie joined the Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation and asked the simple question: “how can I help?”

It’s a question that Jackie’s still asking today—and it’s a question that the people at LISC are happy she asked back in 1981. That’s because soon after joining the board of the Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation, Jackie sat down with one of LISC’s program officers and was explained the significance of her opportunity. After that meeting, Jackie realized she would have the chance to be a part of team that could make a huge difference for the people of Mapleton Fall Creek.

“LISC has been an extremely valuable partner,” said Jackie. “They met with us soon after I came to Indianapolis and gave advice about being successful in community development. They helped me understand that when you settle on small, safe development initiatives, you get small, safe results. But when you take on projects of scale, when you take risks—that’s when amazing things happen.”

With encouragement from LISC, Jackie and other neighborhood activists helped the Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation focus on improving a four-block section of Delaware Street. This particular section was facing some serious challenges, including absentee landlords, high crime rates, and damaged homes. But that didn’t deter Jackie or the Delaware Street Project from making major property improvements and attracting many new homeowners to the area.

For Jackie and the Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation, the Delaware Street Project was all about cultivating a sense of community, and that’s why it was important to encourage people to buy homes in the neighborhood, rather than rent them.

“People who are renters usually aren’t invested in the neighborhood like a homeowner is. That’s why it was important for us to explain to potential homeowners that places like Mapleton Fall Creek and Delaware Street are full of opportunities and good people. It’s a great community, an ideal place to raise a family, and we’re happy we’ve been able to help improve this historic neighborhood.”

The story of Jackie’s involvement with community development doesn’t end with the Delaware Street Project—in fact, it’s just the beginning. Since moving to Indianapolis over thirty years ago, Jackie’s served on the Indianapolis City-County Council, worked for multiple Indianapolis public libraries, and has become a member at St. Joan of Arc Church, which helps her stay rooted and active within the community. And with a leadership philosophy focused on self-motivation and empowering others, Jackie’s influence will positively impact Indianapolis for years to come.

Even though Jackie’s no longer with the Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation, her work serving the public continues today as CEO of the Indianapolis Public Library. And Jackie hasn’t given up on the neighborhood she spent so much time helping to improve.

“Mapleton Fall Creek is a very special community to me, and it always will be. That’s why I live here. It’s the place I want to be.”