INDIANAPOLIS — There's a big empty space on the ground floor of a five-story office building that is poised to become the first private business to open on the Community Justice Campus since since the $600-million project opened two years ago.
This new restaurant will serve breakfast and lunch to the thousands of people who visit the Community Justice Center every day.
"The hope for this project and the Community Justice Center is to transform what is otherwise a somewhat challenging area," said Gary Perel, senior director of retail for ALO Property Group.
The city is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into this sprawling east-side campus on polluted land that was once a shuttered gas and coke plant.
The 140-acre campus is so big it opened in phases, with the jail, sheriff's offices and courts opening in early 2022; and the Aequitas building — where this new restaurant will be located — opening last summer.
Neighbors have long been hoping all this civic investment ushers a host of new businesses and an economic boom for the people who call this area home.
"The whole fabric of the place is changing," said Jude Odell, a community activist and clay artist who has lived and sculpted art in the neighborhood for 32 years. "And it's good to get some new businesses and money and energy coming into the area."
For decades, Odell said Twin Aire residents were a collection of regular, hard-working folks who didn't have much money or political clout.
"We're really low income and we were very invisible," Odell said. "We had a hard time getting any attention from the city and getting the services we need."
That's all changing now, thanks to a handful of vocal residents and the massive taxpayer-funded investment in the justice center.
Odell said many of the old-timers have moved away, or passed on, but she said those who remain are seeing their fortunes rise as the neighborhood improves.
"We get daily postcards and telephone calls to sell our houses and my studio here," Odell said. "They're fixing up all the houses. They're being fixed up in contemporary styles and they're being sold for much more than any of us ever thought anything in Twin Aire would ever be sold for."
The city and developers have plans for more investment in the area.
A block away, city and county agencies in recent years have purchased the Twin Aire Plaza and an old drive-in movie theater.
The Department of Metropolitan Development is currently weighing proposals from several developers that would turn the combined 40-plus acre site into housing, retail shops and green space. A DMD spokeswoman told WRTV the city is still in the process of choosing a redevelopment plan.
And there's a long, grassy field next to the Aequitas building that Perel said will some day be the site of another twin office building.
While he's not ready to divulge the name, Perel said he is hammering out the final details with restaurant tenants looking to lease about half of that ground-floor space in. the Aequitas building.
He convinced that this Twin Aire neighborhood — close to downtown but without the downtown price tag — is on the cusp of becoming a very desirable area.
"When it becomes a target list for the city, usually the private investment tends to follow," Perel said. "If you're a smart investor, and you have the money to invest in some homes, I would definitely be buying some homes in this area."
Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @vicryc.