Our spotlight shines on Rita Franco, owner of La Mexi-Gringa, where you can find some of the most awesome fresh authentic Mexican dishes in Indy (mmm…handmade tamales with a side of her mouth-watering guacamole and chips). Take a moment to learn a bit more about Rita and definitely visit La Mexi-Gringa. Do it TODAY!

Tell us a little about yourself and how La Mexi-Gringa started.

My name is Rita Franco. I am the owner of La Mexi-Gringa and mother of four amazing children. My children attend Irvington Community Schools, and in 2010 we moved into the area to be closer to school. 

I have sold tamales to family and friends for the past eight years. When Irvington and other surrounding communities tasted my tamales, my business grew so large that I had to make a business out of my hobby. We have now grown into a carryout restaurant in Irvington and sell a variety of fresh authentic Mexican dishes. 

Obviously I am an American gal, so you may wonder why and how I came into serving up Mexican goodness. MyLa Mexica Gringa husband is from Guadalajara, Mexico, and my best friend is also from Mexico. I’ve always been a decent cook and love truly authentic ethnic food. I lived in Mexico for a while and brought back everything I learned. We’ve been open since May and are thinking of expanding our hours and offering delivery options. I love that our restaurant is truly authentic here on the Eastside with some of the best tacos in Indy!

What do you do for fun?

As shocking as it may sound, I am a foodie. Some of my favorite things to do are find wonderful local spots to eat and tell everyone about! I also love traveling to explore places I’ve never been. Being in the great outdoors is my favorite place to be (40 degrees or higher, ha ha).

What’s your favorite walk, bike ride, block, or view in the neighborhood?

I adore eating at Dufours in Maria’s quaint sweet cozy cafe. Her dang French toast is an experience each time, and you’ll never get the same breads. In fact, I think I’ll go there for breakfast this morning! (note: written prior to Dufour’s closing)

The Coal Yard Coffee house is a great place to chill and see many familiar local faces. Even some famous Irvington FB folks, LOL. Baristas Nyla and Michelle always hook me up with their favorite concoctions. 

And riding my bike through the trails of Irvington from the Pennsy to Pleasant Run is my very favorite thing to do during warmer months. 

If you were Mayor of Irvington for a day, what would you do first?

If I were Mayor of Irvington, I’d have more community gatherings. It’s such a fun tight-knit community. Maybe gatherings at local businesses, parks, heck on the street! Having a tight community is fun and creates a safe atmosphere. 

Come grab lunch and/or dinner (it’s that good) or call for carryout. We also cater! Contact Rita Franco of La Mexi-Gringa at 317-453-1743 or LaMexiGringa.com La Mexi-Gringa is located at 6129 E. Washington St. Indianapolis IN 46219.

To read more of the February newsletter, click here.

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About Irvington Development Organization

Irvington Development Organization, founded in 2002, works for the benefit of Irvington by cultivating positive business development, promoting the unique character of our neighborhood and enhancing the quality of life for residents and visitors. Irvington is a historic community on the East Side of Indianapolis known for its winding, tree-lined streets and architecturally significant homes and businesses.To donate to IDO or become a member click here.


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Below is an article from our January IDO Newsletter about the large-scale tree planting that occurred in the Irvington Terrace area during the 2015 Lilly Global Day of Service event. A big thank you to the employees at Eli Lilly and Company, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Irvington Garden Club, IDO’s own Irvington Green Initiative and our wonderful Irvington and Indianapolis-area neighbors!

To read more on the Shadeland article, click here for our January IDO Newsletter where you’ll find additional articles on parking in Irvington, our Neighbor Spotlight, and new restaurant, The Mug, which will be coming to Irvington in the not-too-distant future!

Bringing the Shade Back to Shadeland

By Heidi Unger
Photo Cred: Heidi Unger and Google Earth Images

Irvington’s eastern gateway, a US 40 highway interchange that aided eastside industrial development in Indianapolis in the 1950s, has received a makeover that restores native habitat and will reduce the city’s maintenance costs by $12,000 per year — every year for the foreseeable future. This conservation project also mitigates stormwater, erosion, and heat while it sequesters carbon and other pollutants.

On Eli Lilly’s Global Day of Service in October 2015, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB) provided the resources for Lilly volunteers to plant 883 trees on the cloverleaf and adjacent triangles at Shadeland Avenue and East Washington Street. KIB, an Indianapolis not-for-profit organization that facilitates sustainable beautification through community involvement, found the size of this city-owned property ideal for a project of this scope (project funding required planting on city property) and was eager to expand an existing project in a community where it has a long-term working relationship with community members.

KIB intends to expand this tree-planting project farther south within the next two years. Nate Faris, Director of Community Forestry, says, “Our plans are, next year in the fall, to plant another 900 trees over at Shadeland and English at the interchange south of the one we just planted, and, hopefully in 2017, we’ll be planting the interchange at Shadeland and Brookville.”

Community commitment

The conservation effort began in 2009 when Irvington Garden Club member Pat Brown and her Irvington Terrace neighbors launched the first stage of this project by gaining support from KIB, Irvington Development Organization (IDO), Irvington Green Initiative, local politicians, and nearby businesses and then began planting 30 trees in the northwest quadrant of the East Washington Street cloverleaf. In the next stage of the project, they added native plants.

Brown’s plan for a prairie/woodland gateway to historic Irvington aimed to reestablish barren acreage to a diverse, self-sustaining property. She explains that “Irvington was originally established as a suburb of Indianapolis, a place to live where one could enjoy nature. Today, traveling along East Washington Street offers mostly views of concrete, commercial signs, and speeding cars.” Restoring native habitat in the cloverleaf “brings back some of the natural beauty that once existed along the Old National Trail/Highway 40.”

cloverleaf northwest

Photo courtesy of Heidi Unger

After the first trees were planted in a portion of the northwest quadrant, that portion was “taken out of mow,” which is the city’s terminology for removing a patch of grass from its grass-mowing schedule — a move that reduced the city’s grass-mowing costs and its impact on the environment. Volunteers in Irvington Terrace committed to watering the trees weekly during the months of April through October for three years (which became four years due to drought). A neighborhood volunteer bucket brigade watered trees with 5-gallon buckets filled from a water tank that residents transported with a trailer and minivan.

About four years ago, news of the planting project caught the attention of Lilly’s Global Day of Service planners, who were looking for an opportunity to train their volunteers to plant trees on slopes and found a suitable slope in the southwest quadrant. Together with KIB, Lilly developed a plan to plant and maintain the entire southwest quadrant. And in 2015, they returned to finish the entire interchange.

This is only one example of how community involvement in neighborhoods throughout Indianapolis can attract bigger and better improvements. “I think a lot of this started with Irvington Terrace being excited to plant there, and it started with small steps that built over time,” Faris says. “It made sense to keep investing there once we started.” 

Cost reduction

Now that the entire interchange is planted, the city will mow only a 30-foot swath around the edges. Faris notes that because the city spends $12,000 annually to mow a single interchange, “We’re saving the city $12,000 [every year], and we’re saving all the gasoline that’s burned to mow those areas. That’s a pretty sweet deal.”

Faris mentions additional benefits. “Trees provide a lot of services. They take carbon out of the air and sequester it. They also knock other pollutants out of the air, so they make the air cleaner. A city gets pretty hot, and trees cool the city, not only by shading the asphalt but also by evapotranspiration.” The evapotranspiration process requires heat, and removing the heat results in a cooler environment under established trees.

“Trees also intercept storm water, so they help reduce the need for larger sewers in our city, and they help reduce peak sewer flows so that less raw sewage is washed into our rivers.”

Partnerships in community development

In the early phases of the cloverleaf project, community members realized its contribution to existing neighborhood development plans. IDO’s goals to enhance the Irvington business corridor on East Washington Street, support the Pennsy Trail expansion, and improve the streetscape fit nicely with the cloverleaf rehabilitation.

The project also contributes to KIB’s goal to plant 100,000 trees across the city.

Food chain and biodiversity support

Brown’s original plan for the cloverleaf included the goal to “promote the appreciation, preservation, conservation, and utilization of the flora native to Indiana and educate the public about the values, beauty, diversity, and environmental importance of indigenous vegetation.” Planting native trees and plants is an idea that has become popular with environmentalists, and it’s one that KIB shares.

Faris explains that one advantage of landscaping with native plants is the relatively minimal care that they require. “They’ve been here for thousands of years, and they’ve adapted to our climate and soil.” Another advantage is their role in the food chain. Put simply, plants that thrive in an environment are food for insects and animals that also thrive in that environment. A tree planted in its native environment can support as many as 500 species of caterpillars. “A bird’s nest, for example, often requires a couple hundred caterpillars a day to feed the new hatchlings. So if we plant native trees, lots of caterpillars can live on that and support the birds and all the other things that the ecosystem needs. But if we would’ve planted gingko trees, which are great urban-hardy trees but are native to Asia, they support in the single digits of species of caterpillars, and far less life can be supported on trees that aren’t from here.”

On the cloverleaf, volunteers have planted native trees, including eastern red cedar, bur oak, redbud, and quaking aspen; grasses such as Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem), Asclepias tuberosa (also known as milkweed and food for the declining monarch butterfly population); and flowers such as New England aster. Cloverleaf visitors are also finding that native plants and trees that no one planted are showing up there as the prairie and woodland recover.

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About Irvington Development Organization

Irvington Development Organization, founded in 2002, works for the benefit of Irvington by cultivating positive business development, promoting the unique character of our neighborhood and enhancing the quality of life for residents and visitors. Irvington is a historic community on the East Side of Indianapolis known for its winding, tree-lined streets and architecturally significant homes and businesses.


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Irvington Luminaria: A Winter Lighting Event

By Paula Schmidt and Heidi Unger


This post is one of several articles in our December IDO Newsletter. You can read the entire newsletter here.

Firelight and friends have historically been a way for many cultures and religions to encourage the light and warmth of summer to return. For 39 years, Irvington Winter Luminaria has served as a neighborhood night out, gathering friends and family to enjoy some nondenominational sparkle and cheer. This year’s luminaria is Sunday, December 20th, 6–10 p.m. It’s a time to slow down, enjoy your home, and celebrate your community.

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Check the luminaria event page at https://goo.gl/PDvyUi for information on lots of related events, including Santa at Irving Circle, Christmas Jazz at Coal Yard Coffee, and a bike tour. If you’d like to dedicate some time to help light public spaces, contact the luminaria committee at www.facebook.com/irvingtonwinterluminaria

Here is how you can participate. Buy candle kits at one of our local businesses. As few as five luminarias will be beautiful. Kits are priced at 5 for $2, 10 for $4, and 20 for $6, or you can buy bags only, 5 for $1.

  • Ace Hardware (1025 North Arlington Avenue)
  • Antique Mall by Jack & Jill (5501 East Washington Street)
  • Black Sheep Gifts (5626 East Washington Street)
  • Coal Yard Coffee (5547 Bonna Avenue)
  • Deering Cleaners (1160 North Arlington Avenue)

Pick up sand from the parking lot of Ellenberger Park ice rink parking lot (at 5301 East St. Clair Street) on or after December 12th. Bring your own container and help yourself.

Set up your luminarias on Sunday, December 20th, and enjoy.

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About Irvington Development Organization

Irvington Development Organization, founded in 2002, works for the benefit of Irvington by cultivating positive business development, promoting the unique character of our neighborhood and enhancing the quality of life for residents and visitors. Irvington is a historic community on the East Side of Indianapolis known for its winding, tree-lined streets and architecturally significant homes and businesses.


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The extension of the Pennsy Trail provides a place to walk, run or bicycle from the Eastside to Downtown Indianapolis.

(Photo: Olivia Lewis / The Star)

Neighbors had talked about having a trail in Irvington for years.

Stephen Windsor, who grew up in the Eastside neighborhood and moved into his current Irvington home in 1990, said he remembers conversations about it long ago.

He remembers the Pennsylvania Railroad trains that rode along the tracks through the neighborhood, the sounds they made and how they were abandoned — and the path that was left behind.

The trail, an extension of the Pennsy Trail, was built in sections and the first part opened in 2009. The path for walkers, joggers and bicyclers now extends from Bonna Avenue to the Pleasant Run Trail at Ellenberger Park, the Pennsy Trail at Arlington Avenue and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. It’s a path that connects people in Irvington to Downtown Indianapolis, and vice versa, without the use of a motor vehicle.

IndyStar Image Pennsy Trail photo cred Olivia LewisSaturday morning, before the neighborhood’s annual Halloween festival, Mayor Greg Ballard and Irvington residents celebrated the opening of the 1.3-mile extended pathway at the corner of South Audubon Road and Bonna Avenue. With $1.13 million in funding from Ballard’s RebuildIndy initiative, the path was officially paved and opened to the public on Saturday.

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Christinia Bryan  and Stephen Windsor have been neighbors in the Irvington neighborhood for more than 20 years. 

But the neighbors were already using it. Windsor said he uses it to walk almost every day. His neighbor, Christinia Bryan, who moved to Irvington in 1991, has been using it, too, for bicycling.

Bryan and Windsor said they’ve watched the neighborhood change. Bryan said residents of the community have always looked out for one another, but along the greenway they interact even more than before.

“We see people walking up and down every day, riding bikes, getting out and doing things socially,” she said. “The neighbors are friendly, everybody is.”

Katy Brett has lived in Irvington eight years. She said the path has brought the residents, who already lived in a tight-knit community, even closer together. It’s also opened up a new way to invite outsiders into the community.

“Most people, when they come to Irvington, they come to Washington,” she said. “But now when they come to Irvington on the trail, they’ll see some of the nice wooded areas off to the side of the street and some of our new businesses.”

On the corner of South Audubon Road and Bonna Avenue is Lisa Wuertz’s small, local business, Bonna Shops.

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Lisa Wuertz owns Bonna Shops, a local store along the extended Irvington greenway. Wuertz says the trail has brought new customers to her business. 

Wuertz has occupied the space for three years and said she wanted to bring her handmade holiday decorations and design boutique to an area with heavy foot traffic. She said she’s not the only business owner to locate there to be near the new trail.

Her foresight has paid off. Wuertz said people using the trail see her business for the first time while on a walk or run and often return — having caught an interest in the shop.

“It’s been a huge change,” she said. “A lot more people coming down to this area, a lot more traffic. It’s been a good thing.”

Wuertz and her family have lived in Irvington for 15 years. Like Windsor, she remembers discussions of extending the path to connect to other parts of the community. Her family have used trails farther into the city for biking and walking. And she said the extension has made it even more convenient for young families moving into the neighborhood.

“It’s a huge win for Indy’s Eastside,” she said.

Call Star reporter Olivia Lewis at (317) 444-6126. Follow her on Twitter:@TheWrittenPeace. 

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About Irvington Development Organization

Irvington Development Organization, founded in 2002, works for the benefit of Irvington by cultivating positive business development, promoting the unique character of our neighborhood and enhancing the quality of life for residents and visitors. Irvington is a historic community on the East Side of Indianapolis known for its winding, tree-lined streets and architecturally significant homes and businesses.

 


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Pennsy Trail Media Advisory


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