March 2nd, 2017

The Saunders Family in Windsor Park, Near East Indy

by Amy Sheldrake Eddy

There’s something irresistibly exciting about a neighborhood in transition.  To witness positive change and flurries of new activity can spark feelings of optimism and new life in a place which has seen decades of decline and disinvestment in the past.  Windsor Park Neighborhood on the near east side of Indy has experienced significant change over the past several years and continues to see new businesses flourishing, houses being restored and repaired, and new families moving in and putting down roots, establishing relationships with longtime residents of the neighborhood who have stayed through hard times.

Andrew and Lauren Saunders are some of those new neighbors moving into Windsor Park, putting down roots and becoming part of the community.  Lauren and Andrew grew up in smaller Indiana towns, in the Evansville and Lafayette areas, and met during their college years at IUPUI.  During that time Andrew lived in Haughville (near west side), Lauren lived in an apartment on the canal, and they both enjoyed the bustle and activity of living downtown.  After their wedding they moved to a tiny one-bedroom apartment in south Broad Ripple on the Monon Trail.  While they loved the walkable, mixed-use nature and great restaurants of SoBro, after a couple years they were feeling the need for more space.  Unfortunately, there was nothing in Broad Ripple with the right number of bedrooms and higher square footage in their price range; very small houses boasted high price tags.  Lauren, a graduate of the Herron School of Art & Design, teaches art in a Carmel school and needed more room for her paintings, craft projects and art supplies.  Andrew works in software sales and was commuting downtown for his job at the time, so they began house-hunting in the neighborhoods surrounding the Mile Square.  They were interested in Fletcher Place and Fountain Square, but home prices in those areas were skyrocketing at the time and there weren’t any good deals available.  They knew what they were looking for: a bargain-priced fixer-upper that was in fairly livable condition, so they could move in right away and complete remodeling projects gradually over the next several years; Andrew comes from a family of DIYers, and Lauren is naturally arts & crafts oriented, plus she gets the summers off from teaching to work on house projects.  A walkable, up-and-coming neighborhood was also on their wishlist.  

When they found their new home in Windsor Park, it checked all the boxes; an older house which needed some work, but could be lived in right away, with plenty of space–4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and an attic loft space which serves as Lauren’s art studio.  One of the bedrooms is currently a game room, holding a pool table and foosball table.  The kitchen had some exposed brick which they really like, but there were some upper cabinets that needed to be removed, and Lauren plans to make new concrete countertops as a future project.  One of the couple’s first projects after moving in was to design and build a large deck behind the house, covering about half the backyard area, and they plan to add a pergola over part of the deck in future.     

Andrew and Lauren knew they were getting a good deal on their house, but they didn’t know the full extent of the transformation happening in their new neighborhood.  They were surprised to find a great workout gym right nearby: the Fitness Zone at the Chase Legacy Center adjacent to the campus of Arsenal Tech High School.  The Fitness Zone has state-of-the-art equipment for an affordable monthly price of $20.  Andrew and his friends have been playing futsal on a new court directly behind the Chase Legacy Building, which was built in August.  Lauren is an avid runner and enjoys running outdoors on the Monon Trail, which is less than a mile from their home.  They are both soccer fans and often go to Indy Eleven games.

Andrew and Lauren have discovered great things inside Circle City Industrial Complex, the massive blue warehousing building several blocks away from them, which is being repurposed as an arts and entertainment destination:  in addition to many artists’ studios which are open for the city-wide art gallery tour every First Friday of the month, the Indy Winter Farmer’s Market offers farm-fresh produce and local goods every Saturday morning November through April.  Lick Ice Cream is still the best anywhere in Indy, with innovative local ingredients and Trader’s Point Creamery grassfed dairy.  Centerpoint Brewing Company opened in October, and the tap room is a favorite spot for Lauren and Andrew.  Nearby Spades Park is a great place to spend time outdoors during warm weather.  The Saunders also enjoy Flat12 Bierwerks tap room and biergarten in Holy Cross neighborhood, just south of Arsenal Tech.  

Everywhere you look on the near east side, you’ll see signs of growth, revitalization and investment.  Vacant homes are being rehabbed, new houses built, and abandoned buildings are given new life as restaurants and brewpubs.  One of the best things about what’s happening there now is the intentional approach that community organizations have taken towards revitalization:  NEAR Indy and NESCO (Near Eastside Community Organization) are careful to encourage growth in a way that tends to prevent the displacement of long-standing residents that is typical of gentrification.  The details on their strategies and a helpful diagram of the differences between gentrification and community building are here.

Welcome to the Near Eastside, Saunders family!  We are glad you’re here.