Steve Barnett is no stranger to history. In fact, it’s widely known that if you need to find out something about your Irvington home, Steve’s the man to ask. He has meticulously created a database of the homes east of Linwood Avenue, south of 10th Street, north of Brookville Road, and west of Kitley Avenue.

Steve Barnett Photo Courtesy hoosier history liveSteve was a member of the community group that created the Irvington Historic District, and he also helped in getting nearby neighbors on the National Registry. He serves as a regular columnist on the Weekly View, sharing a variety of historical information ranging back as far as 100 years ago. Steve contributes house histories for homes that are on the annual Benton House Tour of Homes.

In fact, the History Channel consulted with Steve for their upcoming series H.H. Holmes: American Ripper. From the History Channel website: “In American Ripper, Holmes’ great-great-grandson, Jeff Mudgett, sets out to prove a controversial theory: that H.H. Holmes and Britain’s most notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper, were the same man.” This series began airing Tuesday, July 11, and Irvington is slated to be featured in upcoming weeks.

When Steve was president of Irvington Historical Society in the 1980s, artifacts and artwork were stored in the History Room in the basement of the former Brown Branch Public Library. The move to the Bona Thompson Memorial Center began in the late ’90s, but the doors were not opened to the public until all 2002 due to construction and repairs. Each week you can find Steve offering tours of Irvington Historical Society’s museum and exhibits during regular operating hours.

How long have you lived and/or worked here in Irvington?

Steve can trace his family’s Irvington roots all the way back to 1927. Between his father and himself, there’s at least one graduate from IPS School 57, IPS School 85, Howe and Tech.  His grandfather worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad and moved to Irvington to be closer to his work at Hawthorne Yards. His father worked at International Harvester and was in the Navy during World War II. Steve served in the National Guard with Dan Quayle during his college years. He and his wife Sue spent a few years on Capitol Hill before moving back home where Steve worked with first Andy Jacobs, then Julia Carson.

What do you do for fun?

Steve enjoys playing with his grandkids and studying genealogy to understand his family’s history. His mother was Canadian, so he and Sue like to travel to the Georgian Bay region.

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

There are too many options for Steve to have only one favorite. When he walks through the neighborhood, he finds his favorites are those areas he frequented as a child, namely University Avenue and Irving Circle Park.  Also Bonna Avenue and the area around the George W. Julian House are still among his favorites.  He still likes Ellenberger Park, but commented that it is vastly different from his childhood days; the wooded western half of the park was so heavily forested it was like night and very mysterious.  He enjoys the Kile Oak tree, which he visited for the first time as an adult.

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

After careful consideration, Steve said he would build a parking garage.  Steve realizes street parking and limited surface lots are not the solution, and he doesn’t want to go to permit parking along some neighborhood streets.  Currently, during special events, some residents can hardly drive from their homes due to problems with parking and automobile congestion created by outsiders looking for parking options.  Additionally, Steve believes we must continue to welcome and encourage visitors from outside Irvington, but many end up as frustrated guests because of the difficulty in finding parking; they leave with a negative impression and may not return.  He acknowledges that there are pockets of surface parking, but those areas should be made more inviting and have better signage at eye level directing visitors to them.  In addition, consideration should be given to marking spaces around the north circle and adjacent streets to maximize existing street parking.

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Quick reminders: In case you missed previous announcements, here are the details for two upcoming events.

Sunday, the beloved Irvington Farmers Market, brought to you by Irvington Garden Club, has resumed its summer schedule of the second Sunday of the month, noon to 3 p.m. in Ellenberger Park. The next market will be July 9.

Discover Irv LogoAnd Discover Irvington, our chance to celebrate and share all that’s wonderful about our neighborhood in warm weather, is Saturday, June 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., sponsored by Irvington Business Association.

Mayor Joe Hogsett will attend at 11:45 a.m. to throw out the first ball for the Black Acre Dunk Tank (no, it isn’t filled with beer), which features Irvington’s celebrities and notorious characters. The merchants will have sidewalk sales, and the community’s not-for-profits will provide activities for the children. Free bicycle cabs, courtesy of Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza, Maximum Grow Gardening, and Audrey’s Place will be available to ferry attendees to the outer reaches of the neighborhood and haul all their purchases back. And you can compete in a scavenger hunt!

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We received a lot of helpful feedback in response to the survey about our newsletter. Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete it. We’ve compiled a spreadsheet containing all responses and we’re working to incorporate these ideas in future editions of the newsletter. Here are some of the survey results.

Which of the items below would you like to see more of in the newsletter?

  • 38% New business updates
  • 20% Neighbor spotlights
  • 18% Local business events
  • 14% IDO updates
  • 10% Construction updates

Do you have a story, group, or event you want us to include in our newsletter?

  • Focus on sustainability issues
  • Benton House
  • Downey Avenue Food Pantry
  • New Irvington welcome sign
  • Irvington green space and restoration
  • Exodus Refugee Center
  • Irvington CSA

Do you have someone you would like to suggest for our neighbor spotlight?

  • Steve Barnett
  • Sue Beecher
  • Dave from World of Vapor
  • JauNae Hanger
  • Sue Kennedy
  • Ed Myers
  • Jenny Skehan
  • The Sponsel Family
  • Heidi Unger
  • Sara Zollner

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Irvington is known for its engaged volunteer paint traffic s cand active neighbors. If you’ve ever wondered how you too can have all that fun you hear about on Facebook and give back to this community we love so dearly, now’s your chance.

All the Irvington organizations are hosting a “job fair” for volunteer positions with our respective groups. At this one-day event, you can talk with representatives from neighborhood groups and choose the opportunities that best suit your interests, talents, and availability. And there will be snacks. Volunteer opportunities will include everything from neighborhood cleanups to planning gala events, simple one-time tasks to board memberships. Need some community service hours before graduating? Come on down. Want  extracurricular responsibilities to polish up that resume? We’ve got you covered. Want to meet new neighbors? No better way. Feel the need to contribute in a meaningful way to a cause you hold dear? There will be plenty to choose from.

On Sunday, April 23, you’re invited to attend Volunteer Irv at the Bona Thompson Memorial Center, 5350 University Avenue, from 2-6 p.m. You can meet representatives of the various committees and learn about the different volunteer activities each has to offer.

This is an opportunity to get involved and have an impact on your community!

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At its February 1, 2017 hearing, IHPC advised Feb 2017 IHPC Coal Yard wCoal Yard developers to rework their application for a certificate of appropriateness for the Bonna Avenue property. The commission asked developers to reconsider architectural style and landscaping for the site. The City of Indianapolis videotapes these hearings and posts them publicly online.

The site proposal in the application incorporated suggestions that Irvington neighbors contributed during the past four months in community meetings, emails and phone calls, and face-to-face meetings with the developers and IDO staff and board members.

Developers will resubmit the application, and the commission will hear the case on April 5, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. in the public assembly room at the City-County building. Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (IHPC) holds design and zoning jurisdiction over 12 designated historic districts to preserve the character and fabric of historically significant areas and structures.

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By Nancy Larner Ruschman

Remember the former Indy East Motel? If you do, you might recall what an eyesore the structure was, not to mention the crime and other troublesome elements it attracted. In 2006 the city revoked Indy East’s license to operate, and finally shuttered it in 2009 due to an extremely high number of police runs and neighbor complaints on this nuisance property. Here’s how a blighted property became a popular, affordable living space.

Photo courtesy of Bill on Flickr, at

Photo courtesy of Bill on Flickr, at

From Indy East to Irvington Lofts

A few years after Indy East’s closing, Irvington Development Organization (IDO) stepped in and purchased this property at 5855 East Washington Street from the county, and in 2011 received the green light from the city to demolish the structure and build a proposed 50-unit apartment complex, which was pivotal for the ongoing redevelopment of the Irvington commercial district.

For those who might not be familiar with IDO, our mission is consistent with the transformation of the Indy East Motel into the The Irvington Lofts. We “work 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.” IDO accomplishes all of this with only one employee and a volunteer board made up of Irvington residents and business owners. Given our mission, we saw a fantastic opportunity to replace a blighted site with a new structure that would bring investment to the Irvington community.

Photo courtesy of One 10 Studio

Photo courtesy of One 10 Studio

And invest we did. IDO received Section 42 tax credits for the site, which sweetened the pot for project investors. Various partners, through Great Lakes Capital Fund (now Cinnaire), invested $8.7 million in the new apartment building, which offers primarily one-bedroom apartments balanced with a few studios and two-bedroom units. Additionally, Franciscan Health redeveloped the 50-year-old doctor’s office to the west of the apartments with some of the same partners. These two properties represent an $11 million investment.

Investments in the Irvington Business Corridor

In addition to working on The Lofts, IDO brought increased interest to the business corridor and new business blossomed in the heart of Irvington. With The Legend and the former Dufour’s already serving as solid anchors in the commercial district, Starbucks opened in 2007, and soon after Jockamo opened, followed by Black Sheep in 2010 and Ossip in 2012. Black Acre, a true game changer in Irvington, opened in 2013, and from there several additional businesses opened their doors between 2013 and 2016, most of which have flourished.

From 2012 to 2016 IDO completed Phases 1 and 2 of the Irvington Streetscape, plunging another $2.9 million into the community. IDO also facilitated an additional $2.5 million in public infrastructure in Irvington in just the past two years. The improvements in Irvington have moved beyond the business corridor to include a rise in home values as Irvingtonians have seen the median assessed value of their homes climb to $90,000, an increase of $8,700 over the last six years.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Lawrence Banning

Photo courtesy of Margaret Lawrence Banning

The Section 42 tax credit financing (see sidebar for more info on this topic) helped to make possible a number of desirable features that make The Lofts extremely energy efficient and sustainable: a community garden, a green roof, a cistern to collect rain water, a solar roof, and a permeable courtyard, in addition to meeting space that residents and neighborhood groups can use at no charge. The apartment opened its doors to residents in September 2012 and attained full occupancy within a few short months. Due to the tax credits, the rents are affordable for households making moderate income. Rents range from $270 to $675 depending on the unit and each household’s income. The property is managed and maintained by the highly reputable Mark III Management Company, and the waitlist now stands at up to two years out.
The current leaseholders at The Lofts include 44 individuals who live alone; four single moms (one child each); one married couple, and one roommate pairing. Approximately nine leaseholders fall in the 18–30 year age range; 21 in the 31–50 age range; and 14 are over 50 years of age. The tenants appreciate the easy walkability of the location and access to frequent bus service. With 50 dedicated parking spaces, there is consistently plenty of open and available parking.

Time, Patience, and Finally, Successcrafts party

The Lofts development took an enormous amount of time, patience, and savvy to pull off. It took many partners (see sidebar) and months of planning, revising, negotiating, and compromising. The original project plan went through several revisions in order to adjust to conditions in the field and meet the requirements of government regulators and investors, as is the case with any development project.

IDO and Irvington Partners LLC own The Lofts, and IDO serves as the property’s long-term owner to ensure that the apartments will remain an asset to the community for many years to come.

Potential Development of Additional Apartments

IDO continues its mission to improve the quality of life in the community and is currently involved in another potential development along Bonna Avenue with many of the same partners mentioned in this article. As with The Lofts, this development is going through several revisions, as the initial plan for the Coal Factory business development is no longer a viable option. IDO and partners have instead proposed an apartment development much the same as The Lofts, and it is tentatively name Coal Yard Lofts. IDO continues to seek public input on this proposal and recently hosted its third public meeting (on January 10). The development team presented the revised drawings and specifications and invited community input on the project.

IDO’s hope is that this development will be much like the very successful Irvington Lofts development. Now that The Lofts is holding a two-year waitlist, the need for additional moderate-income dwellings is a much-needed commodity in the Irvington community.

Want more information on Irvington Lofts or wish to add your name to the waitlist? Contact Jenni Scales at Mark III Management at 317-356-2460.

For more information on the potential new development on Bonna Avenue, please contact Antone Najem,, or Margaret Banning, 317-260-0669,

Section 42 versus Section 8 Tax Credits

The Irvington Lofts was financed by selling tax credits from the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority (IHCDA). The residents who live in Section 42 units must be income- and program-eligible. The rent that a resident will pay is capped at a fixed amount (subject to cost of living increases) and includes utilities which are the resident’s responsibility. In rental assistance programs such as Section 8, the resident’s rent is based on 30% of his/her income, and the remaining adjusted portion is funded by the federal government. The Section 42 program is not a government-subsidized rental program. Since the inception of this tax credit program, there have been over 150 Section 42 projects developed in Indianapolis alone.

IDO’s Operations

IDO is funded from individual donations, memberships, grants, fundraisers and project administration monies. Project admin dollars are funds that are built into the cost of the project and paid to the developer (IDO) to manage the project.

Partners on The Irvington Lofts Apartments

IDO and Irvington Partners LLC own The Lofts. Other partners on this project included:

  • Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority (IHCDA)
  • The Marion County Commissioners
  • The City of Indianapolis
  • Great Lakes Capital Fund
  • Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC)
  • First Financial Bank
  • ONE 10 STUDIO Architects
  • McKinley Development.

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