INDIANAPOLIS — Located in the historic Riverside neighborhood, 16 Tech Innovation District sits on 50 acres just outside of downtown Indy. The district is dedicated to innovation, entrepreneurs, and talent.
"As well as making sure that people have the space to be able to develop their new ideas. We can't do that if the people who have been here, historically and throughout the generations, are not a part of that process," Sibbeko Jywanza said.
Jywanza is the Director of Community Access and Engagement for 16 Tech Community Corporation. His role focuses on bridging the gap between 16 Tech and the surrounding neighborhoods.
"It would be bad of us to not extend these things to the neighbors or work with them to make sure that things are happening along with them," Jywanza said.
According to 16 Tech's website, by 2030, the 16 Tech Innovation District will be home to more than 3 million square feet of office, lab, retail and residential space, more than 3,000 jobs and will have invested more than $3 million into resident-led projects to support our neighbors.
Yuri Smith grew up in Riverside near 21st and Harding Streets.
"They said they were going to come in and work with our community, and they have done that," Smith said.
16 Tech Community Corporation, the district's non-profit organization, recently awarded $325,000 grants to 11 projects that will directly impact the surrounding community.
Smith's organization's received a $25,000 dollar grant.
One of Smith's organizations that will benefit from the grant is Youth 2 Greatness. He is also the co-founder of Indy's Inner City Chess Club. He says the funding will allow him to expand the Chess in the Park initiative. He plans to hold events more often, provide food, free instruction and resources.
"People learn how to play chess, people are gravitating and getting resources," Smith said. "We want to do it so frequently, that it's so common for us to engage together in a positive way with no issues."
Since 2020, 16 Tech has awarded nearly $1.6 million in funding to 51 projects.
An advisory committee made up of neighbors and local organizations decide who receives the grants. Leaders say this ensures the funding is aligned with priorities identified by residents on the near west and northwest sides.
"If you are a new neighbor and you come up with an apple pie to your neighbor, it's easier for you to establish a relationship," Jywanza said. "Essentially that is somewhat what the community investment fund could actually do, bring attention to what's going on here, but also allow people to improve what they are doing on an everyday basis."