INDIANAPOLIS — In Indianapolis, there are a number things the east side of the city doesn't have.
"We don't have a bank. We don't have adequate access to healthy food sources. We don't have great sidewalks. We don't have just the basic essentials for a great quality well-being. And the list goes on and on and on," said Ashley Gurvitz.
But this fall that list will be shorter, when the new First Merchants Bank opens near East 38th Street and Keystone Ave. Gurvitz is the CEO of the Alliance for Northeast Unification and lives just blocks from the bank. For her, a trip to the new bank will be a three minute bike ride from home. Compared to the three mile car trip she currently takes to the nearest bank. She and area residents are thrilled.
"They are so excited! They're like what do we have to do to make sure now that we something that wants to invest in us to make sure it doesn't leave again," Gurvitz said.
The staff at First Merchants Bank say they recognize the need for a bank in the 46218 ZIP code. It's among the many conversations the company has had with residents like Gurvitz. They say if the goal is to help the east side thrive, then it comes down to finances.
"That is a big part of that growth. It's a big part of bringing good ways for individuals to save, for individuals to buy their homes, to find ways to invest and we want to be part of the growth with them," said Jadira Hoptry, Director of Community Lending and Development for First Merchants Bank.
First Merchants says in addition to talking with the community, it has done its research, by using a study from Indiana University, which indicates the 46218 ZIP code is lacking financial literacy and down payment assistance. Now the bank is prepared to cater to the east side's commercial and residential customers.
"We're going to have a first-time buyer product,, with no-money down. There's going to be grant money available, and low credit scores as low as 600," said Sherry Boudoin, Assistant Vice President Community Lender for First Merchants Bank.
Gurvitz says she is looking forward to the day when residents don't solely have to rely on a liquor store or a payday loan store to cash a simple check.
"Who wouldn't want to have a bank? And the need has just been so critical." Gurvitz said.
First Merchants Bank was the center of a 2019 lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice accusing the bank of redlining and avoiding offering services in predominantly Black areas of Indianapolis. Without admitting any wrong-doing, First Merchants Bank settled that lawsuit and agreed to open a full-service bank in one of the city's Black neighborhoods. Read More about the lawsuit and settlement here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-settles-suit-against-indiana-bank-resolve-lending-discrimination-claims