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Indy nonprofit transforms old firehouse into new community center

Aspire Higher moves into new community center

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A local nonprofit is putting some finishing touches on a unique space — an old firehouse on the corner of Udell and Rader streets.

The Aspire Higher Foundation will soon use the renovated building as a new community center, the “Aspire House.” Its work is focused on the Northwest Landing neighborhood.

Organizers plan to use this as a space to host, nutritional programs, community meals, sports clinics, a community garden, and more.

Co-founder and Executive Director Sharon Clark says they hope to combat food insecurity and revitalize other spaces in the community.

“Our communities — particularly that are very underserved, they don’t have gathering spaces,” Clark said. “This is one that will be kind of a grand gathering space for them so that they can connect.”

Renovations cost the group $1.2 million. Funding was provided via grants from the 2024 All-Star Host Committee, Efroymson Family Fund, and Old National Bank.

Community Relations Coordinator Nora Ruotolo says demolition inside started in 2020.

“It’s a nationally registered historic building that was built in the late 1800s,” Ruotolo said “It’s really cool to just be able to see some of those historical elements and to be able to serve the neighborhood with a building that served them back in the day.”

Along with programs on the first floor, the new center will also host four apartments.

The second floor will feature two apartments meant to be affordable housing specifically for educators. They’re calling it the “Ed BnB Program.”

“We looked at the research and worked with a lot of great partners,” Clark said. “What we realized is that teachers really don’t get enough time to know the families and understand the kids that they’re teaching. So when they live in the communities that they teach in, they’re able to do their job in a much better way.”

On the third floor, one will serve as an artist loft while another will serve as a short-term rental space for visitors to experience the neighborhood.

Aspire Higher will host an open house for the community to check out the new space on Feb. 15 starting at 4:30 p.m.