In 2007, it seemed like the tide might be turning for West Indianapolis. Our Community Development Corporation (CDC) was awarded the IMAGINE Grant. CDC created a Quality of Life Plan and a Morris Street Esplanade with the help of WINC and other area partners (The perfect community project for TIF funding!). The Morris Esplanade was a vision stretching from Eagle Creek to White River that would reconnect our community, and pave the way for small businesses to move back in to provide needed services to residents.
But the City of Indianapolis and Eli Lilly had other plans. It wasn’t enough for them to split our community apart and remove countless homes and businesses over the last 30 years. They also wanted the $4 million + yearly accrual of the Harding Project TIF. Remember, TIFs are supposed to be used to benefit the designated TIF area, since the money is generated by taxes paid by homeowners and businesses within its boundaries. However, sometime between 2001 and 2006, the City quietly merged the Downtown and Harding Street TIF districts so that instead of investing in the QOL Plan and Morris Esplanade, the City funneled Harding TIF money into downtown for work on the canal and other future projects for the downtown area. This marked the start of the city using the West Indianapolis TIF as a “piggy bank.”
30 years later, the consequences of the Harding Street Project and shady TIF dealings are apparent. Not only do we bear the burden of industrial expansion, but our neighborhood continues to crumble as we see our funds diverted to downtown projects instead of healing our community. Jefferson Shreve, former City County Councilor for our district, when asked about the allocation of Harding TIF money, said, “It is not a piggy bank from which the administration is going to pull some dollars from here and some dollars from here to fix something else here”. However, the merger of TIF districts says differently. The extent of the abuse of the Harding Project TIF is unknown to this day, but documents WINC has obtained via FOIA requests point to around $70 million in transactions through the TIF. In 1970 we warned this project would “isolate people located east from its schools , parks, and other services“ and we were ignored. Some big questions remain: What happened to the $40 million in extra TIF money? Why was the QOL Plan and Morris Street Esplanade left unfunded for over ten years?
The newest trick the city used to invest in corporations instead of communities – and divert money to Big Pharma – is happening at the new Elanco Headquarters. Elanco, an animal pharmaceuticals company, is in negotiations to build its new headquarters at the old GM Stamping Plant site in The Valley. The City and State partnered to give Elanco a $225 BILLION corporate welfare package, once again taking from the Harding TIF to help fund it. Meanwhile, Morris Street Esplanade is still not funded. This Welfare package was so large, they had to funnel 8 million from the Consolidated TIF and the Harding Street TIF as well as create an entirely new $64 million TIF for the Elanco campus site. They did this after WINC spoke out against using funds from Harding to fund work for a project that would have its own TIF. Essentially, this shuffle of the deck allowed them to take money from Harding and Downtown Consolidated, then remove the boundaries, so they could create a new $60 million TIF on the same property.