The Irvington neighborhood on Indianapolis’s east side has undergone a major transformation over the last decade. While the neighborhood hasn’t experienced the steep population decline of some other urban neighborhoods, it has struggled with maintaining a healthy, thriving business culture.
So to bring business back to Irvington, members of the Irvington Development Organization (IDO) Board decided to play to their strengths.
“Housing has been relatively stable in Irvington—we have many beautiful, historic, and well-maintained properties—but we had started to suffer from commercial neglect and disinvestment,” said Margaret Banning, director of the Irvington Development Organization Board. “We wanted this neighborhood to be a destination. That means attracting more businesses while keeping the ones we have happy to be here.”
To do this, Margaret and others decided that blighted properties along Irvington’s main corridor needed to be either rehabilitated or torn down. One property, a seedy hotel on the east end of the corridor, was of particular concern.
“The Indy East Motel was becoming a nuisance property. Other businesses and residents were unhappy it was a part of our community, so we did something about it. This scenario gave us our first opportunity to really dive into the development world,” said Margaret.
The Irvington Development Organization Board turned to LISC for support. “LISC gave us the early funding we needed for predevelopment on the Irvington Lofts project. They also provided us with lots of technical and planning assistance along the way—not to mention moral support. We knew they were the perfect partner for this type of ambitious project.”
The former Indy East Motel would become Irvington Lofts, which offers affordable housing, helping to bring a great mix of new residents into Irvington. It’s a property that fits well into the fabric of the community, but its modern architecture and emphasis on sustainability make it unique within the neighborhood. Environmentally friendly features of Irvington Lofts include a community garden, a cistern for rainwater collection, and a “green” roof with plans to install solar panels to create more sustainable energy.
Local businesses have taken notice, and they couldn’t be happier. “There’s a doctor’s office right next door to Irvington Lofts,” said Margaret. “It’s no coincidence they decided to expand their property right around the same time we were building. LISC assisted with that project as well, and it’s helped spur additional commercial reinvestment like this.”
“Because of LISC, we’ve made valuable networking connections that continue to benefit us on an ongoing basis,” said Margaret. “They connect us with peer communities through our FOCUS lunches, and they are always available to help. If I need a certain kind of document, or a contractor, they know exactly who to call. They’re a great asset for me and are always available when I reach out to them.”
Thanks to projects like Irvington Lofts, more people who work in Irvington are starting to live there, too. And it’s becoming more of a destination—a place full of thriving businesses that attract people from all over the city. “Irvington’s future is bright,” said Margaret. “But our work here isn’t done. When you work in development, there’s always that next great opportunity to make your community even better.”