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New streetlights coming back to Indianapolis

In 1980, the city of Indianapolis placed a moratorium on new streetlights because of budget restraints. Since then, U.S. Census Bureau data show the city has grown by about 42,000 people, with no new streetlights to accommodate that surge. Mayor Joe Hogsett ended that moratorium in 2016, and now the city is in the middle of a push — Operation Night Light — to install up to 4,000 new streetlights.

This is the second phase of the operation. After Indianapolis Power and Lighting (IPL) — which has a contract with the city — installed 101 new streetlights in 2016, there was a pause while the two sides negotiated a new contract. The installations picked up again in fall 2018, this time with more energy-efficient LED lights.

The first installation of these new streetlights came in the area of 75th Street and Shad.

eland Avenue. George Wright, board president of Binford Redevelopment and Growth, said the community wasn't "standing on the table pounding our fists," but lighting for pedestrians was a concern since many walk from their homes and apartments to nearby stores.

"That was kind of a busy street," Wright said of the area." [It was] kind of dangerous to have it as dark as it was."

Mackenzie Higgins, policy advisor to the mayor, said a sense of improved safety is one the things she hopes citizens get out of Operation Night Light.

"When we say public safety, factors that go into that are violent crime, property crimes, but also pedestrian safety," Higgins said. "... We're trying to identify the areas where there's high frequency of pedestrians that are going out walking, potentially in the street, so we're doing our best to make sound decisions."

Data shared by the city show it approved 26 streetlights for installation in the area of 75th Street and Shadeland Avenue, more than any other section of the city so far. The city had approved 359 new streetlights during this second phase as of March 15. The goal is to approve about 100 each month, although that doesn't mean IPL can install the streetlights at that rate, since weather sometimes limits what it can do. The installation process could continue into 2025, when the city's contract with IPL expires.

When a resident submits a request for new streetlights, the city reviews the request for feasibility and evaluates the site. If the city approves the request, it passes it along to IPL, which eventually installs the new streetlights.

Amy Harwell, who's on the board of One Voice Martindale Brightwood, said she hopes more streetlights lead to improved safety in the community. The Martindale-Brightwood area got new streetlights — on 25th Street between Sherman Drive and Keystone Avenue, for example — though Harwell said she hopes to see more streetlights on side streets.

"[Streetlights are] important for any area because it's safety," she said. "A lot of people walk and take the bus. I mean, come on now. Nobody's gonna try to do nothin' when it's a bright street."

To create room in its budget to pay for the 4,000 streetlights it wants, the city is paying to convert existing cobra-headed streetlights to more energy-efficient LED lights. That conversion process, which began in 2018 and will go through spring 2021, is happening in three phases: The first phase was in the three northern townships, the second and current phase is in the three central townships, and the final phase will be in the three southern townships.

Higgins noted that the conversation only applies to streetlights the city pays for — about 27,000 — and not streetlights residents have requested to light their private property or an alley. Citizens who want their lights updated should contact IPL.

The city's goal is to have about 750 streetlights retrofitted each month. Ashley Miller, Operation Night Light project manager, said IPL retrofitted about 6,500 streetlights as of March 14, but noted that number is constantly changing.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

Request new streetlights

Residents can request new streetlights by going to streetlights.indy.gov, download the RequestIndy mobile app or call the Mayor's Action Center at 317-327-4622. Once residents receive a service request number, they can track the progress through RequestIndy or by calling the Mayor's Action Center.


Indianapolis residents celebrate milestone birthdays

Two Indianapolis residents recently celebrated milestone birthdays that carried them even further into their 100s. Elmon Myers turned 105 on March 12, and Sarah Wilson turned 104 on March 14.

When it comes to the secret for living such a long life, if Wilson knows, she wouldn't share.

"That's my business," she said at her birthday party at Community Nursing and Rehabilitation.

Wilson, who used to be a nursing assistant at Wishard Memorial Hospital, gathered that day with her friends and family to reminisce on a life well lived. Her family said she loved dancing growing up and was even better at it than those who were supposedly trained and coached. At her 103rd birthday party last year, Wilson stuck out her tongue for a photo, showing the vibrant woman everyone knew

was just turning a year older, not changing.

"She'll tell you what she's thinking," Wilson's daughter, Barbara Jones, said. "She don't bite her tongue about anything."

While waiting for the nursing home staff to serve the cupcakes, Wilson's other daughter, Norma Harris, arrived and she sat by her mother to hand her a card.

"How you doin', mama?" she asked through tears.

Wilson, known to speak her mind, said how she was doing: "Hungry."

"I just thank God that she's still in her life," Jones said, "although it's not the way I would like it. [I'd like] for all of us to be together, but at least we're still here and can still see each other."

Myers, a former construction worker who helped his father build the family home, was not as coy as Wilson when asked how he's managed to live so long.

"The lord Jesus Christ," he said. "The best you can get. I don't care where you're going, he's better than anyone."

Myers, one of 15 children, grew up in a poor family and attended Crispus Attucks High School, where he graduated in 1936. He would sometimes have to wear his mother's shoes to walk to school because "we didn't have nothin'." One day, he didn't wear any shoes in the morning, but he had to run home when school got out because it had started snowing. Myers was featured in the documentary, "Attucks: The School That Opened a City," but said he was the worst among his siblings in school.

"I was about the dumbest one in the bunch," he said. "I couldn't spell worth a dime."

What Myers could do was math, and he was also good in shop class. He enjoyed making stools and chairs and tables. Myers went into construction with his father and built 28 homes in the city.

Myers' daughter, Elinor Nelson, said she remembered her father always doing his best to provide for the family, and said one of her favorite memories is when he would wake up her and her siblings in the morning to appreciate life.

"He would always make us get up certainly for school, but on a Saturday," she said. "'Get up. If you don't do anything, get up and see the sun rise. Get up and do something.'"

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.


Indiana Black Expo announces new headquarters on east side

Indiana Black Expo announced March 19 it has purchased the Crossroads Bible College building on the east side and will relocate its headquarters there. The headquarters will house IBE's new Performing Arts Academy for youth, which will include music production, dance, videography and photography studios. IBE will also have a theater and some early college initiatives at the new building.

IBE will spend about $4 million in total to renovate the building in phases over the coming years. Tanya Bell, IBE president and CEO, said she hopes to have the studios built before July, which is also the target date for programming to begin.

Aside from getting more space — the new headquarters is about 43,000 square feet, while its old headquarters on North Meridian Street is about 14,000 square feet — IBE is moving closer to some of the east side communities it's been serving. Beechwood Garden and Hawthorne Place are only about three miles from its new headquarters.

"This facility will be a safe haven and hub for youth and families in our community," Bell said at a press conference in a room that will eventually become a dance studio. "... IBE will target neighborhoods on the east side of Indianapolis to ensure that underserved youth have an opportunity to develop their talents and achieve academically and economically."

Bell also said IBE is working with the Marion County Juvenile Division and Department of Child Services in hopes of getting mandatory referrals from those organizations.

Speaking at the press conference, Mayor Joe Hogsett said he hopes IBE moving and expanding its programming will help youth who are looking for creative outlets.

"Some students possess an intellect that is not sparked by traditional subjects," Hogsett said. "But it is sparked by creative pursuits. ... And once that spark occurs and a student feels the excitement of discovering their own potential within them and as part of them, they will develop confidence that they then can apply to any subject."

The Performing Arts Academy's programming is for youth ages 13-19 and currently has 100 students

enrolled with about 30 more on a waiting list. Bell said IBE anticipates serving more than 300 youth in the program's first year.

Joey French, a music production instructor, said the added space at IBE's new headquarters will allow for more resources such as computers and equipment to make the recording studio look more professional. The goal, then, is for the arts to be an avenue to positively impact the youth who participate.

"Music, film, all the arts, that's what they're attracted to," he said. "When you can speak on their level, they're a little more receptive to your guidance."

One of those youth is Amoir Gray, 14, who has been part of IBE's music production program for about two weeks. Gray said the program helped spark a confidence that wasn't there before.

"I feel like it's an opportunity to expand what I do and to be able to get my message out to those who are less fortunate," Gray said. "... It doesn't matter where you're from, it doesn't matter what you do, it doesn't matter who you are and what mistakes you've made. You can still grow."

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.