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21 Blocks On the Rebound
by Elizabeth Duffrin
At the turn of the 20th century, Mapleton-Fall Creek was the jewel of Indianapolis—a neighborhood of spacious Craftsman and Foursquare homes, of thriving business districts, of churches and synagogues—a racially integrated place where German, Jewish and African-American residents lived alongside one another.
Leigh Evans grew up in a very different Mapleton-Fall Creek, one of lost manufacturing jobs, drug dealers and empty lots. Her father, an African-American veteran purchasing his first home, had been steered there in the 1970's, south of the 38th Street dividing line that separated black residents from whites.
Neglected by the city, sidewalks crumbled along with neighborhood pride. "If I sweep in front of my house, the trash is going to blow back in from both directions," residents figured, says Evans. "You just give up."
Evans graduated college, left the neighborhood and earned an MBA. But in 2008, she returned with her young family, drawn by a desire to live near her parents, the charm and spaciousness of the old homes and a vision of what the neighborhood could be.
Three years later, she was appointed chief executive officer of Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation, her "dream job," and now is leading a neighborhood turnaround, with a focus on the 21 blocks with the highest vacancy rates.