Saving the 'Sweet 16'

Students from the Excel Learning Academy recite "I am Somebody" during the Sweet Sixteen Neighborhood roll out event at the Impact Center on Saturday.

ANDERSON — After 18 months of community input meetings and long nights of planning, the Sweet 16 group revealed its plan to revitalize the city’s near west side on Saturday.

The group of 17 community leaders formed five small groups focused on issues facing the neighborhood, which includes the 46016 ZIP code, an area from Brown-Delaware Street to Raible Avenue and from 10th Street to 30th Street.

Saturday, each of the five groups — transportation, housing, health and safety, business development, and education and job training — revealed their plans as part of an event called "For the Love of Neighborhoods" at the Anderson Impact Center.

“Thank you all for joining us in making our neighborhood somewhere you can love to live,” said Sherry Peak-Davis, executive director of the Anderson Impact Center.

The event packed the center’s cafeteria, beginning with a recitation by a group of local elementary school children. As keynote speaker Kojak Fuller spoke about the need to “live beyond you” in focusing on rebuilding Anderson, he gestured to the group of kids.

“Will you look at what we just experienced and say ‘OK, that is our future and let's fight for a better one for them?’” he asked the group.

The Vectren Foundation is funding the project through the Prosperity Indiana organization, which is coordinating the effort.

Rose Scovel, director of capacity building for Prosperity Indiana, introduced the Sweet 16 Quality of Life plan as a way to bring community members and stakeholders from the area together to get access to programs.

“Residents know what is best for their community, but they may not have access or be aware of the programs and things that are available to them,” she said.

Also at the event, each of the groups presented their plans for the community.

The transportation and infrastructure group is working with the Madison County Council of Governments to discuss issues related to what transportation in the area could look like in the future.

The group wants more bike lanes installed; signage of bus routes for the City of Anderson Transit System; and other signs to direct visitors to Anderson in finding other locations. The group also hopes to reallocate the City of Anderson Transportation budget to leverage federal funds for system improvements to get residents to job opportunities.

The housing group’s goals include increasing pride and beauty be reducing blighted properties by 25 percent, engage the city and landlords in rental property maintainance, increase participation in homeowner repair programs by 30 per year, and develop 54 units of affordable housing.

The health and safety group plans to develop neighborhood watch groups, reduce drug-related crimes by 25 percent and raise awareness of diabetes prevention and management resources.

In business development, the group hopes to improve communication, build an active business group with 10 or more members, find funding for entrepreneurs and develop a co-working space for small businesses.

The education and job training group wants to assist 25 adults living in the area in finding full-time employment by 2020, paying a minimum of $11.30 per hour. It also wants to assist 50 percent of the young people in the 46016 ZIP code to participate in training programs.

Peak-Davis said the roll-out was “the end of the beginning,” adding the Sweet 16 group will meet annually or bi-annually to check up on its success.

Renae Lozava, who’s lived in the neighborhood for decades, said she’s excited about the plans moving forward.

“Anything that can be done to improve our neighborhood is a good thing,” she said. “There’s lots of crime and nothing for kids to do.”

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