Façade grants, housing initiatives help near east neighborhood thrive

Façade grants, housing initiatives help near east neighborhood thrive

Just east of downtown Indianapolis, just north of the railroad tracks, is an area centered at the intersection of East Washington and Oxford Streets known as Englewood Village, part of the Great Places 2020 initiative. Development in this area is increasing the momentum of Englewood’s growing sense of community and inspiration as it is becoming an established place of sustainability and innovation. There are numerous strategies underway to accomplish this including providing funding to small, local businesses through façade grants, in addition to increasing affordable homeownership opportunities in these neighborhoods.

The Small Business Façade and Property Improvement Program is one tool within FOCUS: Works, a collective impact partnership between LISC Indianapolis, the Indy Chamber, and the City of Indianapolis, with key support from Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership, State Farm Insurance, PNC Bank and others. The program uses a comprehensive approach to community revitalization — helping residents transform distressed areas into places of choice and opportunity. The rebate program allows business and property owners to receive reimbursement for up to 50 percent of the cost of the façade or property improvement project in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $25,000 for completed work. The goal of the program is to build long-lasting relationships that connect neighborhoods with businesses and new resources to revitalize urban markets.

“The program is a rare source of funds for small businesses in Indianapolis to increase their presence with the goal of increasing their viability.  It complements our housing initiatives as it creates vibrant commercial destinations for neighborhood residents that increase the overall attractiveness of the area” said Moira Carlstedt, president and CEO of INHP, a funding partner of FOCUS.

For one of the 2017 façade grant recipients Maria Cartagena, owner of Pia Urban Café and Market, the benefits are significant. “With the help of our facade grant, we are in the process of installing additional signage for the cafe,” said Cartagena. “Washington Street experiences a large volume of traffic driving to and from downtown. Increased signage will help acquaint people with Englewood Village and the many small businesses that make it unique.” Maria opened Pia in April of 2016. Located at 2834 E. Washington Street in the heart of Englewood Village, the café and coffee shop reflect Maria’s Puerto Rican roots. Not only is Maria focusing on bringing Puerto Rican fare to the eastside, she is also creating jobs for neighbors that are integrating back into the workforce.

The Small Business Façade and Property Improvement Program works to strengthen the neighborhood-based businesses and commercial districts that are so important to urban quality of life. However, providing opportunity for working families to become and remain homeowners is also a key component in strengthening the growth of our Indianapolis neighborhoods.

To address housing, INHP secured a $5 million New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) allocation to rehab abandoned housing or build new housing for sale to an estimated 36 low- and moderate-income individuals or families within three targeted Marion County neighborhoods. On the Near Eastside of Indianapolis, just a few blocks from Pia’s Urban Café, Near East Area Renewal (NEAR) will use a portion of the funds to initiate The Teachers’ Village, developing the first 14 of more than 20 affordable houses in 18 months that will be marketed to Indianapolis Public School and urban charter school teachers.

INHP’s NMTC program is one of several comprehensive homeownership initiatives, each focused on different stages of housing stock revitalization. Other programs like Rehab Match and Home Value Guaranty will provide opportunities for homebuyers to purchase and rehab vacant or abandoned homes in the Near Eastside, while its Stabilization Repair program will support existing homeowners by providing interest-free loans to those who need to make necessary repairs to keep their home safe and habitable.

The spirit of the Near Eastside community exists because of its strong sense of history combined with a dedication to community development. Recent commercial and residential development in the area is helping build sustainability on Indy’s Near Eastside.