The United Way of St. Joseph County is raising $3.5 million to build a neighborhood center on the city’s southeast side that would be anchored by a child care center but also feature health services and other charities. The building would rise on a vacant corner of Fellows Street and Dubail Avenue, now filled with mowed grass and a tangle of trees and bushes. It’s surrounded by homes, some patched up with boards, some with heaps of trash in front, but also within three blocks of Riley High School and close to a college and youth club.
“Kids don’t get out to see excellence in that part of town,” said Richardo Taylor, pastor of the Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, three blocks away, who sees educational hope in the child care. “Families are making ends meet and don’t buy educational tools.”
He started a nonprofit, 466 Works, about seven years ago to “re-establish the neighborhood,” an effort that has built two homes so far and aims to build six homes this year within about 200 feet of the future center — an area, he said, that suffers from poverty and absentee landlords that don’t care for their homes.
466 Works will donate three vacant lots to the project, he said.
Laura Jensen, president and CEO of the local United Way, said the neighborhood center came about as the agency looked to solve persistent issues: Businesses have trouble retaining employees because of a lack of child care. Local charities say they need space to expand. Looking at where the greatest needs are, she said, the United Way honed in on the southeast side.
“It all kind of came together,” she said.
In a neighborhood plan that the city crafted in 2015, neighbors, businesses and community partners identified a need for a multi-use building at the Fellows-Dubail corner that would provide services, said Liz Maradik, principal planner for the city.
That site was key, she said, since it’s easily accessible to the neighborhood along Fellows, a main thoroughfare. It’s three blocks north of Riley, seven blocks south of Ivy Tech Community College and about half a mile south of the YWCA North Central Indiana, the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Joseph County and the Southeast Neighborhood Park. Broadway Christian Parish, with services for the homeless and needy, is about five blocks away.
The city would donate two vacant lots at the site, though it has yet to come to the city’s Redevelopment Commission for approval, Maradik said.