INDIANAPOLIS -- Crews broke ground Friday on the first significant construction project in the past several decades at 38th Street and Fall Creek Parkway.
The former Homer J. Williamson Chocolate Factory has been vacant for years, supporting only an underground of drugs, homelessness and a myriad other illegal activities. But individuals have been able to look past the broken windows, the crumbling bricks and the graffiti to see the potential.
The chocolate factory will become The Overlook at the Fairgrounds, a four-story, $13.5 million, 49-unit apartment complex with a rooftop terrace and balconies overlooking the fairgrounds.
In a neighborhood where 20 percent of the residents don't have jobs or job skills, the development will also have a training center.
"We want to bring new life into the community and not just with a beautiful structure, but with job opportunities as well," said Gary Hobbs, CEO of BWI LLC.
Also known as the Maple Road, 38th Street is seeing new growth. It's home to an award-winning charter school and neighborhoods that have seen home improvements and public investment. And two days ago, a large grocery chain announced it will make a new home in the area.
"We're seeing a lot of businesses that see this resurgence and are starting to commit to 38th Street to start their businesses," said Amandula Anderson with United Northeast Community Development Corporation.
The Overlook at the Fairgrounds plans to capitalize on existing amenities like a robust IndyGo transit system and connectivity to the Fall Creek and Monon Trail system.
"This is a great example of a transit-oriented development that we hope will attract public and private investment in the area," said Leigh Riley Evans with the Mapleton-Fall Creek Neighborhood.
Investors and community stakeholders see The Overlook as more than just housing. It has the potential to serve as a gateway between the northeast and mid-north neighborhoods, a chance to step away from its past and into the future.
"There hasn't been this type of activity since the ‘60s when the Meadows closed. And as a business owner, seeing kids walk in front of my building, seeing people enjoying the corridor is exciting," said Will Marquez, owner of Bank Design.
The Overlook is a mixed-income project, meaning it will have subsidized and market-rate apartments.
Officials hope to have the project open by this time next year.