June 19th, 2013

Many advantages to settling in St. Clair Place

by Emily Hinkel



When Joel and Darby Chodakowski first visited St. Clair Place and saw their house, there was a huge hole in the ceiling—not something that most young couples look for in their ideal kitchen.  Fortunately, they were both able to look past that and see a vision of the home that it could one day be.  Now, two years later, the house is happily hole-free, and Joel and Darby share it with two dogs, two cats, and—in just one month—a brand new baby.

The Chodakowskis have had the pleasure of completely restoring their home, gutting the entire structure and then renovating it.  They know that not everyone relishes the idea of devoting so much time and effort to repairs, but they found real joy in the process.  Darby says, “I wouldn’t consider myself an artist, and I’m certainly not a construction worker or a gardener, but moving here brought out those aspects of me.  It feels really good taking these things that were nothing and restoring them to something of beauty.”  Walking through their home, there’s evidence of this restoration at every turn.  The rooms are warm and inviting, and the backyard, which they claim used to be a mud pit, now boasts a picnic table, fire pit, and a beautiful vegetable garden.

It’s clear that the Chodakowskis love their new neighborhood and everything that it offers.  “Broad Ripple isn’t the only fun part of town,” Joel insists, and it’s hard to doubt him as he and Darby proceed to rattle off a list of parks, bike trails, and disc golf courses.  They’re quick to point out that Mass Ave and the Cultural Trail are barely a mile away, both within easy biking distance, providing dozens of wonderful ways to fill up their leisure time.

Joel and Darby were first drawn to St. Clair Place by the affordable housing it offered and by the revitalization of the neighborhood.  “The city is really investing in this area,” Joel says, noting the 35 new homes built by Indy-east Asset Development and the Super Bowl Legacy work done in the area.  Darby adds, “It seems like every other week, somebody new has moved into the neighborhood.  When we first moved in, that was sort of the concern: a lot of new houses are being built, but are people actually going to come?  And they are!”

Joel and Darby’s neighbors are a mix of new residents, like themselves, and people who have lived in the neighborhood for twenty years—or even longer.  The Chodakowskis have loved getting to know all of them.  Again and again, they return to the topic of community.  It’s easy to tell that it’s the people here that mean the most to them.  They found that opportunities for relationships sprang up around them in surprising ways.  Darby shares the story of one such opportunity:

“When we started our garden, our neighbors started bringing plants over for us to put in our yard, and then we did a little bit of plant swapping.  It was so cool, just these older women teaching me how to take care of plants.  For weeks, when I came home, there would be bulbs in buckets on my porch.  It was an unexpected but cool connection to make.”

The Chodakowskis have been renting the house for the past two years, but they’re now taking steps to buy it, finally making the house that they’ve put so much of themselves into officially their own.  Darby explains their decision to stay in St. Clair place: “When we first moved here, we wanted to be friendly because knowing your neighbors is what this is about.  Now, we want to stay because we have tons of friends here, and we want our kids to grow up around these people.”  Even with all the advantages that St. Clair Place has to offer, there can simply be no better reason to stay than that.