INDIANAPOLIS — Dennis Burton stood outside his jewelry store in the 900 block of South Meridian Street and looked at the heavy equipment blocking the street and constructing a 269-unit apartment building across the way.

”The southside has all kinds of potential and we’re kind of realizing that now,” he said above the noise.

TWG Development realizes it, spending $58 million to build the Rise on Meridian complex.

Brian Shapiro of Shapiro’s Deli realizes it as he prepares to seek bids to build an apartment building and hotel at McCarty and Meridian Streets.

Now, homeowners and residents of the Old Southside realize it, and city leaders do, too, as Mayor Joe Hogsett and advocates symbolically broke ground on $6.8 million in infrastructure improvements along South Meridian passing under the I-70 overpasses to connect the community with downtown.

Those improvements include better sewers below ground and plenty of changes above ground to enhance foot and bicycle travel.

”Like new sidewalks, new bike lanes, new crosswalks, like added trees, benches, bike racks,” said Hogsett.

Construction of the interstate decades ago split the neighborhood in two and sounded the residential death knell for the Babe Denny community which found itself squeezed between the southside of downtown and the highway.

Now builders and investors, including the owner of the Indy 11 soccer team with his own $200 million stadium and development project in the plans, have recognized the great track of undeveloped land on the near southside and the potential to connect the residential area around Kelly Park with the heart of the city.

”Now other people are realizing that and they’re making the investments and upgrading the housing there,” said Burton of the Stadium Village Business Association. ”I think its gonna be transformed. I think if you just left town and came back, its gonna be tremendous. You’ll be so amazed at the transformation all these projects are gonna have.”

Burton attended planning meetings which painted a picture of what that stretch of South Meridian will look like.

”Visually you’re gonna see changes to Meridian Street from McCarty down to Wisconsin, as far as the streetscape, lighting, bike and walk paths, things that are gonna making living here a lot more enjoyable,” he said. “I think the bike and walk path will do a tremendous job of connecting Kelly Park, which just had a $900,000 upgrade to it in the Old Southside, a lot of renovation going on in the Old Southside, people moving there will be able to ride their bike west or east, go to Fountain Square, go to Elanco Park. Its gonna be a great amount of connectivity here.”

Today’s announcement marks the city’s second Lift Indy investment in the Old Southside.