Plans are in the works to turn a vacant high school on the east side of Indianapolis into a catalyst for the neighborhood by creating a support center for residents. The John Marshall Opportunity Hub would become a source for social services, job training and food security. Indianapolis Public Schools closed John Marshall High School in 2018 due to poor academic performance and dwindling enrollment numbers.
In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Gleaners Food Bank Chief Executive Officer John Elliott and Fervent Prayer Church Pastor James Jackson explained what the center could mean for the underserved neighborhood around it.
“It’s really consistent with our own strategy,” said the Gleaners CEO. “We’ve been trying to deal with the interconnected challenges of poverty and the way families face them and take the convenience of finding multiple solutions under one roof.”
Elliott says the facility could become a “one-stop-shop” for the 85,000 residents in that part of the city that are looking for support in education, housing, hunger, and more.
“There’s a lot of sidewalk connections already out there that lead to John Marshall and more on the way,” said Jackson, who has served as a pastor in the area for 24 hours. “I think all of the different businesses and services out in the community that want to be in there under one roof makes it very convenient.”
Marshall first opened as a high school in 1968 but closed in 1986. IPS reopened the building in 1993 as a middle school, but the school system permanently closed the facility four years ago.
While the building no longer serves as a traditional school, Elliott says it could still serve in an educational capacity.
“It’ll be such an incubator for small neighborhood businesses and startups. There’s a whole secondary wave of job creation too. And the opportunity to be educated or retrained at Ivy Tech under that roof as well,” Elliott said.
Elliott says to turn the vacant school into an active opportunity hub will take a financial commitment from additional partners, such as philanthropic groups.
He estimates it will cost about $20 million in capital to renovate and get the building running and another $10 million in operating funds to get it through the first five years.