IPS hopes to transform former schools into ‘opportunity hub’ for far east side

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) has a vision to transform one of its former schools into a site that could help an entire community.

At last Thursday’s school board meeting, IPS school board commissioners agreed to move forward in hopes of transforming the former John Marshall property.

“To engage in and complete a concept and engagement initiative around the John Marshall grounds and facilities with the ultimate goal of purchasing and transforming that property into a state-of-the-art opportunity hub for far east side residents,” Superintendent Aleesia Johnson presented to the board.

There are many things that need to happen before that’s a reality. It could take a few months before the district takes its next step. However, school leaders are hopeful for the future of the John Marshall facility. The building was previously declared as surplus with the Indiana Department of Education and the district says it’s excited for the building to be leveraged as a community asset.

“I know it’s been an issue for a long time, it’s an area of high need,” said school board commissioner, Diane Arnold.

Commissioner Venita Moore added, “Many times when we have a need to close some of our schools, we leave our community desolated, so this will give us an opportunity to do something that’s very positive around that community – my community that I am 150% for it.”

Instead of sitting empty at 38th and Mitthoefer, organizations would occupy the space and help link people to services. According to Indianapolis Public Schools the programs could include:

  • Job training and placement
  • Hiring and recruitment services
  • Skills and vocational training
  • Entrepreneurship Courses
  • Connected services and transit-oriented development
  • Direct employment connections to major employers
  • Improved neighborhood mobility
  • Youth-centered engagement and activities
  • Food Security
  • Household reinforcement
  • Affordable health care and childcare
  • Neighborhood design with diversified mixed-use housing and business services

Tasks, the CAFÉ neighborhood center down the road could use some help with.

“We’re certainly pushing our capacity to serve,” said Michael Howe, the CEO of CAFÉ, “We’re obviously a food desert, we’re a banking desert and the area itself just needs a lot of resources and help to lift the community.

Howe says their needs have increased 800 percent during the pandemic and for an area that’s already struggling, an opportunity hub could change lives.

“People just want to see change,” said Howe, “Groups in the community are trying to help people, residents are trying to help each other, this is just a time for everyone to come together and we can be part of that and help.”

This project is in its very early stages. The board approved the memorandum of understanding to begin the pre-development exploratory phase of the project. If all goes as planned, the purchase of the building will come this Fall or Winter.

The project is also in partnership between Garcia and Associates, Thomas P. Miller and Associates, CAFÉ, Glick Philanthropies, and Halstead Architects (also known as JMC).

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