South side pushes for massive revitalization effort

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Shuttered businesses and vacant lots are not uncommon along Madison Avenue, the main commercial corridor on the south side of Indianapolis, but there is now hope for a turnaround.

Community leaders and business owners want the city to designate the area as an economic development district which would open it up to federal funds they cannot currently access.

“This is our world. You live and breathe it when you own it,” said Roger Heldman, who owns Direct Connect Printing with his wife, Robin.

The couple has been investing and expanding their business for years despite the loss of some of their commercial neighbors.

“It’s blighted, it’s underdeveloped, and it’s not going to continue on its own. It’s not going to happen on its own,” said Jeff Miller, Indianapolis City-County Councilor.

The area of concern involves a nearly 57,000-acre stretch from Interstate 70 to the Johnson County Line.

“Increasing the base of business here, attracting new, and the third, is making sure the quality of life is high,” said Dr. Robert Manuel, President of the University of Indianapolis, who spoke to the need for the economic development district designation.

The university is one of the area’s largest financial contributors, and Dr. Manuel said they would be interested in expanding and investing in new projects in the future if they see positive movement.

“It could revive, remodel and maybe add some new frontage in the storefronts,” said Heldman. “All of those things help draw customers into your business.”

An Indianapolis City-County Council Committee will soon meet to discuss the proposal. It will need final approval from the full council and the Metropolitan Development Commission.