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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As investment and improvements in downtown’s near north side leapt over 16th St. and headed north and then expanded eastward to both sides of College Avenue, Willie Hawkins of the Hillside Neighborhood Association couldn’t help but wonder, “When are they gonna get to us?”

“My neighbors and myself in our community we’ve asked that same question,” said Hawkins, “and now we’re glad they’re finally getting to us.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett announced that the city would administer $4.5 million in federal funds as part of its Lift Indy program to prime the private investment pump in the Monon 16 community which borders the Monon Trail.

“This funding will support affordable quality housing, creative place making, public amenities and more,” said the mayor standing in the shadow of West Fork Whiskey, a distillery under construction in a former grocery store at the intersection of 17th and Bellefontaine Streets.

Hogsett said the city will identify other areas poised for investment and market activity to fund under the Lift Indy program in the years to come.

$50 million has been invested in current projects in the area with another dozen projects planned, according to the mayor’s office.

Rehabilitated housing, small business growth and potential amenities like restaurants were some of the reasons Dan Wagner decided to relocate his Rivet Creative Group to Monon 16 after outgrowing its former Fountain Square offices.

“We had early on a desire to be in downtown Indianapolis,” said Wagner who turned down other locations in Hamilton County to put down roots in one of the city’s core neighborhoods.  “I would love to grow not only in this building and this neighborhood and find ways that we can continue to not only leverage the services that we offer but grow our team and provide space for creative people and talented people to grow in this community and continue doing great work.”

Wagner has five employees who turn out promotional designs and materials, printed in the back room of his building adjacent to the distillery.

“I would love to see more commercial businesses, we have an empty lot across the street from us here, I would love to see maybe a multi-purpose building go in where maybe its both housing and businesses. I’d love to see more restaurants and other small shops and local businesses be able to thrive alongside the people of this community that are calling this place home.”

Willie Hawkins rode a bus to Hogsett’s morning announcement in the neighborhood just over the Monon Trail from his lifetime home.

Come Oct. 21, Hawkins said he will have spent 65 years in the Hillside/Monon community.

“Its been deplorable,” he said. “We’ve had businesses in our neighborhood has gone down but I’m encouraged to see the redevelopment that is going on now.”