IndyEast Promise Zone celebrates one year anniversary

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (MAY 19, 2016) -- Thursday morning, Indianapolis leaders took a look back on what progress has been made on the city’s east side over the past year.

A little over a year ago, Indy’s east side was designated a federal “Promise Zone”.

A “Promise Zone” is a high-poverty community where the federal government works with local leaders to make improvements for a decade. Right now, there are only 12 other Promise Zones nationwide. There will never be more than 20 at a time.

Today Mayor Joe Hogsett gathered with non-profit and business leaders inside the brewing facility for Ash and Elm Cider Company, a cider brewery opening in a few months on the near east side.

Hogsett indicated it’s a symbol for the area’s future, built in a building many had given up on in an area of the city most had given up on too.

“The idea of being able to support our community, not just by living them, but bringing jobs and supporting people and improving the foot traffic was really important to us,” Homoya said.

Right now, Andrea Homoya and her husband employ just a few people. One day, they hope to have several full-time employees. She sees their cider-making business as indicative of a larger trend in the community.

Mayor Hogsett does too. Frominside the brewery, he recognized the area’s 100 new jobs. All were created since the Promise Zone designation.

“Let us celebrate what has been accomplished in the past year, but more importantly, let’s celebrate what will be accomplished,” Homoya said.

Hogsett admitted the goal is a tall order. The unemployment rate within the federally designated promise zone is almost 25 percent.

Almost half the population lives below the poverty line. Very few can afford to buy their own homes.

City and federal officials outlined how groups are chipping away at the socioeconomic problems. They’re courting businesses, small and large, to open up on that side of town. Many area leaders were excited to hear about progress they feel is long overdue.

“Martindale-Brightwood community has been a long time waiting for an opportunity such as this,” executive director of Oasis Christian CDC Gina Lewis said. “We have over 9,000 residents there. We’re really happy to be a part of this and want to make sure that any resources we can bring to the table, that we can partner with everyone.”

When asked what she would like to see from the city’s transformation after a decade, Homoya said she wants to see a vibrant community right out the door.

We would love to be able to look down the street and see a bike path and see other businesses and retail storefronts and people walking up and down, which doesn’t happen a lot right now,” Homoya said.

The Promise Zone designation makes it easier for organizations to qualify for grants.

The designation only lasts nine more years, so leaders will try to use it to their advantage to transform the look and feel of this area.

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