It doesn't take a realtor to know that the best way to build a community is education. As the schools in an area improve and prove themselves, homebuyers are more likely to invest with their money and families. For decaides, the debate on the merits of Indianapolis' public education has raged in Marion County and outside of the 465 loop. For most of Indianapolis' core neighborhoods, the options waned as schools were closed and consolidated in response to the suburban flight of the 60s and 70s. Yet now, many neighborhoods are experiencing new life thanks, in part, to the magnet and charter school initiatives of the past 10 years. There are other neighborhoods, nowever, that are having an interesting but related debate - what to do with old school buildings that are sitting empty.
Some have found a very easy transition - turn the old buildings into new educational facilities. For Herron-Morton Place and Mapleton-Fall Creek, the benefits are easy to see. Two historic campuses were reused as a charter and magnet school, respectively. The old Herron Art School campus moved from 16th and Meridian with the opening of their new building on IUPUI's campus. With the assistance of the Harrison Center for the Arts, the new Herron High School was established in 2001 and has become one of the top high schools in the nation, according to Newsweek. Building on the campus' history as an art school, Herron High School' curriculum follows an art history timeline, as opposed to military or political periods. Shortridge High School, which produced Kurt Vonnegut, has been reborn as a magnet campus for Indianapolis Public Schools. The public policy-focused school now serves students in grades 6-12. In addition to preserving the glorious facade and interior of the campus, the school has revived the debate and journalism programs - two benchmark programs of the school's past.
For other schools, the solutions had to be a little more creative. The neighborhood of Englewood, on the City's near-eastside, has transformed the historic IPS School #3 into a vibrant new apartment complex and part of The Commonwealth, which also features community space, a gymnasium and rooftop sports area. The rooms have been turned into studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments for single families. At Horizon Central Fellowship in Fountain Square, the old School #18 has been converted into a church and youth center. The gymnasium and larger facilities has enabled HCF to develop after school programming such as tutoring and a martial arts program. At both of these facilities, the "schoolhouse aesthetic" was intentionally preserved. The nostalgia and craftsmanship of the bygone era serves as a portal for the next generation of use and revitalization.
At the end of the day, the decisions that are made about these former learning centers and community gathering places, whether it is to convert them to educational, residential or business spaces, or een to demolish, will set a standard for how neighborhoods deal with their historic buildings in the future.