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Posted on Mon. Feb. 20, 2012 - 12:01 am EDT

New plan announced to improve 46807

Includes initiatives to attract new residents

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To connect with volunteers involved with the Quality of Life Plan for 46807go to www.facebook.com/46807QualityOfLife?sk=wall&filter=2.

For more information, contact Patricia Turner, Pathfinder's community engagement coordinator, at pturner@pathfinderservices.org or at 416-9683.

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The “end of the beginning” for the 46807 Quality of Life Plan steering committee was marked by a meeting Sunday afternoon to outline its plan to members of the community.

The plan is the result of one year's worth of meetings, focus groups and conversations.

The plan is a three- to five-year vision to improve life in the 46807 ZIP code, an area defined by Creighton Avenue to the north, Calhoun Street to the east, Tillman Road to the south and the St. Marys River to the west.

The plan is collaboration among the steering committee, made up of volunteers from the 46807 community; Pathfinder Services, a nonprofit human services organization based in Huntington and Indiana Association for Community Economic Development, a statewide organization that provides resources, information and financial support for communities.

Representatives from all the groups spoke during Sunday's meeting, giving an overview of their work in the plan, answering questions and encouraging more community involvement.

About 50 people attended the meeting, including the participating volunteers. As volunteers talked about the diversity of the area as an asset, they looked out into a nearly all-white crowd.

“It's a natural barrier,” said John Steinbach, a 46807 resident and committee volunteer. “The trick is to get diverse groups involved. It'll happen, but it will take time.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 47 percent of the residents in 46807 are non-white, which is about a 10 percentage-point increase from 2000.

Pathfinder Services President John Niederman said the project grew out of concern that the area would see great decline, as expressed by former city councilman Tim Pape and city Director of Community Development John Urbahns.

Niederman, a former 46807 resident, said the area has changed greatly since he lived there, citing the exit of Lutheran Hospital and Taylor University from the area.

But those involved in developing the plan focused on what they liked about their neighborhoods and community in 46807 and set goals to increase the value of what they liked, instead of focusing on the negative.

All those who spoke stressed the importance that the plan and vision continue to develop as new volunteers jump on board and initiatives change.

“The plan is not static. It will continue to evolve,” said Angie Harrison, a steering committee member.

Right now, the plan includes social, physical, civic and economic goals on how to improve the area and attract more residents including continuation of South Side Intercultural Fest, opportunities for youth in the arts and improvements to sidewalks and bike trails.

Pathfinder Services will be accepting grant applications for initiatives included in the plan and others the group believes will benefit the community.

Adrienne Maurer, president of the Illsley Neighborhood Association, plans on applying for such a grant to fund a resource guide for homeowners in 46807.

Homes in the area are aging, with many more than 100 years old. An older home means more maintenance, Maurer said, and many community organizations already offer support to those who own these homes.

The resource guide will provide information on home inspections and instructions for simple home repairs, where education and training is offered for homeowners who want to do more extensive home repairs, how to apply for financial aid and what contractors in the community have expertise in working with older homes.

Initiatives can change, and the group remains open to new volunteers wishing to participate and new ideas to improve the area.

“I don't know where it's going to lead, but I know great things are going to happen,” Steinbach said.

The area's new City Council representative, Geoff Paddock, agrees. He attended some of the group's meetings last spring and summer and said the plan is a great accomplishment of a completely volunteer, grass-roots effort.

“I hope I can help with some of these initiatives,” he said, adding that many could be enhanced by public, private partnerships.

sjanssen@news-sentinel.com


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