Less drugs, more art: Fountain Square fights back against recent crime

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SOUTHEAST SIDE — Those who live and work in the up-and-coming Fountain Square neighborhood say that despite recent violent crime, their effort to turns things around is working.

The southeast side, near Fountain Square, provides the ultimate contrast: from art galleries, walking paths and hip restaurants to violent crime and drug dealing.

Last week, police raided the home of suspected drug dealer Andrew Sizemore, killing him after gunfire erupted. Sizemore lived just a mile from the main drag of Fountain Square and grew up in the area.

“(It) had a reputation as a sort of thug neighborhood,” architect Mike Halstead said of Fountain Square’s past.

Halstead knows the changes in the area better than almost anyone. He moved his architecture firm to Fountain Square 15 years ago, when there wasn’t much going on there at all.

“When I first moved in, over half the store fronts on the first floor were empty,” Halstead said.

Now, the image has changed. It’s become a hot spot for up-and-coming businesses, restaurants and bars.

That includes Eddie Battista’s restaurant Bluebeard, which opened just blocks north in neighboring Fletcher Place a year and a half ago.

“When we started there was nothing. It was desolate,” co-owner Battista said.

Bluebeard is now flanked by two new, modern apartment buildings and has plans of its own to expand and open a bakery next door.

Crime itself has gone down in Fountain Square. Burglaries and larcenies are down 23 percent. Robberies are down 27 percent.

Still, Halstead knows that residential areas still need work, much like the one Sizemore lived in.

He said that if the area keeps focusing on development, community policing and new housing, it can keep the momentum and keep violent crime out for good.

“The more we develop Fountain Square, the more people who live here, I think the more we’ll be able to keep an eye on things,” Halstead said.

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