When Taft learned of Miles’ hunt, he sent him an email, proposing the Near Eastside and its Quality of Life Plan as a potential focus of the NFL’s $1 million that was annually directed toward a charitable project in every Super Bowl host city starting in 1992. Historically, this annual grant was directed toward building an NFL Youth Education Town (NFL YET) in an underserved area of that city. But would the NFL consider helping an entire neighborhood? That was the question Taft posed to Miles in early 2008. Although it was unconventional, Miles agreed, he was intrigued.
When Miles went before the Super Bowl Bid Committee on May 20, 2008, he laid before them an impressive case for why they should select Indianapolis as the home of Super Bowl 2012, not the least of which was a fighting little community on Indianapolis’ Near Eastside that was trying to pull itself out of a decades-long socioeconomic slump. He particularly recommended that the NFL’s $1 million go toward building a YET Center on Arsenal Technical High School’s grounds.
More than three years later, a remarkable transformation has already begun—and will continue—to take place. Since the NFL fixed their attention and their dollars toward the Near Eastside, dozens of others—including Chase Bank, Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), Citizens Energy Group, the City of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership, and United Way of Central Indiana—have shown their allegiance as well, contributing a cumulative $100 million toward neighborhood projects and improvements.
Today, the progress looks like a newly renovated apartment complex (Jefferson Apartments) that used to be a haven for prostitutes and drug dealers, a brand new senior apartment building, a People’s Health Center, a food coop, 200 new or renovated houses, thousands of new trees, and an under-construction Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center (worth $11.2 million).
These improvements have together added up to a neighborhood where quality of life really is improving.
“We certainly wouldn’t even be where we are now . . . if our neighborhood hadn’t been chosen by the Legacy,” said Ruth Shaw, a 35-year resident of the Near Eastside. “It’s just wonderful that it’s happening in my lifetime.”
“It’s like we’ve come out of the darkness and into the light,” echoes Kay Grimm, another Eastside home owner.