The Metropolitan Development Commission is backing a plan to use Tax Increment Financing to pay for renovations at Tarkington Park.
The project would include new walking paths, a performance stage, picnic area, splash park, café, lighting and landscaping.
"This area in particular that we are talking about at 39th and Illinois is an area that all the neighborhood associations believe is a catalyst for improvement across all of this region of Indianapolis," said Councilor John Barth.
Tarkington Park is mostly empty right now except for its northwest quadrant that is made up of basketball and tennis courts, a playground, and a few park benches.
"When I look out the window, right now, what I see is a big, blank open field," said Darren Cushman-Wood, Senior Minister of North United Methodist Church which sits just south of the park.
"When I look to the future of what it could look like, I see it as a place where neighbors are coming together, a destination, a gathering place, a place where there is an opportunity for greater understanding and peace in the neighborhood," he said.
Tarkington’s surrounding neighborhood is a hotspot for drugs and violence.
It sits in the 46208 zip code; the city’s third most deadly over the past five years. Cushman-Wood describes the park at night as “dark and scary,” but thinks the renovations can create a new atmosphere.
"Redeveloping a park in and of itself is not going to do away with crime, but it's one piece of a multi-part plan to make this area safer," said Cushman-Wood. "An area that is well utilized is going to reduce crime because people are interacting in positive ways."
And he believes those interactions can foster a community that is attractive to businesses, such as a grocery store and retail.
Sandra Dangerfield hopes that’s true.
"I just think if they had more reputable shops that it would add, definitely, to the community," she said.
For the past 18 years, Dangerfield has lived directly across the street from Tarkington Park.
Sitting on her front porch that is decorated with whicker patio furniture and wind chimes, Dangerfield describes how she wants the park to transform.
"I would love to see nice plants, nice trees, just a nice, better look, more professional looking," she said. "For example, if they were going to have a picnic, if you look over there (she said pointing), that's all you have is that one, little shelter there."
She is concerned the park’s current infrastructure, specifically the basketball court, attracts the wrong kinds of people and activities.
She thinks a safer park could create a safer neighborhood.
Four years ago, violence hit right across the street at her home.
"I was robbed and beaten here and left for dead," she said. "My eye was out, my teeth, ribs broken. My back is messed up today because of it."
So, Dangerfield hopes upgrades to the park will attract a new, more family friendly crowd and create a more positive culture.
"I don't know what other kinds of activities need to be over there, but, there needs to be something that is more productive than just playing basketball," she said.
Upgrades at Tarkington are tied together with a proposed $30 million development along College Avenue in Broad Ripple, which has raised concerns from some residents.
Tax revenue generated from that complex will be used to pay for $1.5 million of the $5 million Tarkington Park project.
Funding for the Broad Ripple development which includes apartments, parking, and a Whole Foods grocery store still needs approval of the Economic Development Committee.
If approved, the full City County Council will vote on both projects, likely later this month.