By KELLI MIRGEAUX
Since it was established in April 2015, the federally designated Indy East Promise Zone has been at the forefront of improvements to individuals, businesses and public spaces in the Near Eastside.
A small staff works tirelessly to establish positive working relationships across sectors and leverage the Promise Zone designation for financial assistance. As of April 2018, an astounding $121,785,558 has been awarded to 29 organizations which serve the economic, educational environmental, housing and community needs in IndyEast – an area home to 18,000 residents with a 19.8% unemployment rate and a 42% poverty rate.
A Promise Zone can be described as a concentrated strategy to fight poverty though a collective impact of stakeholders. Areas with such a federal designation receive a competitive advantage when applying for funding for specific projects and programs.
“The opportunity has allowed lead agencies and the community access to technical assistance and federal grants that come with the designation,” Promise Zone Director Jon Berg said.
One of 22 Promise Zones across the country, Berg says that his staff succeeds by “forwarding cross-sector collaboration and public-private partnerships (many times philanthropic) that allow for improvements in infrastructure, job training, housing and other priorities outlined in the Near East Quality of Life Plan.”
Using the collective impact planning framework, the Promise Zone staff works with partners by sharing data relevant towards decision making and funding in five goal areas – Buy, Live, Work, Buy and Safe. Recent awards in these five areas include:
- Increased collaboration between the City of Indianapolis, the Indy Chamber and the Economic Development Administration. The Promise Zone was leveraged to secure $375,000, which was matched by Citizens Energy Group – totaling $700,000 in assistance for assessment of the former Citizens Gas Coke Plant and to support an economic recovery coordinator at the City of Indianapolis to assist Twin Aire community and partners in redevelopment.
- $200,000 for Near East Area Renewal from the EPA’s Brownfield Area-Wide planning program for a community-led planning effort to address a key brownfield known as Sherman Park. The process will assess the site and provide remediation and redevelopment guidance aligned with the community need. This was the first federal funding award for NEAR.
- Two federal grants totaling over $150,000 to Fair Housing of Central Indiana for education and outreach of fair housing laws and lending requirements to both residents and housing developers.
- $494,000 in federal funding to the Hoosier Farmers Market Association, which will provide technical assistance and educational workshops for farm-oriented businesses in the Promise Zone. The award will support that organization with the resources for the regional community assessment and planning conference and lay a foundation for a “buy local” Eastside initiative and assist with local food system development.
- $50,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town program, awarded to IndyEast Art Peace in partnership with the Arts Council of Indianapolis, NEAR and the City of Indianapolis to work with Eastside artists and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to address Crime Prevention through Environmental Design.
- Investments from the United Way of Central Indiana’s Social Innovation Fund to be used to expand pre-kindergarten in the Near Eastside as part of the Great Families 2020 initiative.
This robust and collaborative effort continues to provide programmatic solutions which are life changing for thousands, Berg said. And the success continues.
Currently, $240,000 is pending from public and private funding sources. To maintain the momentum of funding, the Promise Zone staff regularly communicates grant opportunities to its partners through continued conversations and online outreach. In May, zone staff announced 15 federal and 32 non-federal applications available in arts, education, community gardening and more.
With the Promise Zone designation in place until 2025, the Near Eastside certainly will emerge as an effort that increased economic and livability conditions for thousands of families.
“I’ve always said that at the end of the ten-year designation, our communities shouldn’t qualify for what allowed us to get the designation in the first place,” Berg said.
The Promise Zone lead agency is the John Boner Neighborhood Center, which along with co-applicant the City of Indianapolis works with implementation partners: Englewood Community Development Corp, Indianapolis Housing Agency, Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership, Indianapolis Public Schools, Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis, Local Initiatives Support Corp, Near East Area Renewal, United Way of Central Indiana, Westminster Neighborhood Services.
For more information on the Promise Zone, go to indyeast.org.