Preservation, Road Trips

Lifting a blighted neigborhood: The Angie’s List campus

This was the scene in 2008 where the Michigan Road and the National Road intersect on Indianapolis’s Eastside. Ew.

Ugly buildings

Since then, this block and the block to the east have been extensively renovated. Here are the same buildings today.

At the National Road and the Michigan Road

The city has Angie’s List to thank, as the company chose this derelict area for its headquarters. You might know Angie’s List and its crowdsourced reviews of local businesses, but you might not know that the company has headquartered in Indianapolis for most of its 20-year history.

At the National Road and the Michigan Road

The company has renovated nearly 30 buildings here, creating a campus on which most of its employees work. It’s transformed this near-Eastside neighborhood from dumpy and dangerous to hip and cool.

At the National Road and the Michigan Road

One of Indianapolis’s oldest fire stations is now Angie’s List’s front door, the place where visitors go when they need to meet with employees. I gather that this was the first building they rented in this block, back in 1999 when they just needed cheap space. Nobody else wanted anything to do with this part of town then.

Angie's List

There’s even a fire truck inside, next to the reception desk. I know this because as I was looking for a new job this summer, Angie’s List considered me for a position. I entered the reception area more than once while I waited to meet people during the interview process.

Entrance

The brick sidewalk is a wonderful touch. I’m betting it was laid as part of the renovation project, but it is rustic and a little uneven as though it’s been there for a hundred years.

Brick sidewalk

Some of the bricks are marked by their makers; most of those come from the town of Brazil, about 70 miles west of here on the National Road. Brazil and surrounding Clay County were rich in, well, clay, which made it a great place to make bricks. Despite this natural resource, the county was named after Henry Clay.

Brazil Brick

Anyway, Angie’s List just kept buying and renovating property here. Their campus now fills more than two city blocks. But I say “renovating” rather than “restoring,” because these buildings have all been reworked to some extent for their new purposes. I saw it firsthand during my interviews. While the firehouse retains much of its historic interior charm, a large former factory building where software developers now work was gutted and is thoroughly modern inside.

Tools

Some preservationists might not be happy about that, but I think it’s a more than fair trade given how badly blighted this neighborhood was. This reuse is far, far better than no use! Angie’s List’s presence has dramatically lifted the surrounding neighborhood, too, raising property values and making it safe for residents.

It was hard for me to turn down Angie’s List’s employment offer when it came. How perfect would it have been for me to work where the National Road and the Michigan Road intersect? They’re my two very favorite old roads! And because Angie’s List has become a leading employer of Indy-area software-development and IT people, many of my former colleagues have wound up here — especially a woman of whom I think the world, a technology Vice President there. She’s simply the best at what she does. I would have loved to work with her and my other colleagues again. But another company offered me a position at about the same time, a role that’s a better match for my skills and career goals, for about the same money. It’s just too bad that their headquarters are in a charmless suburban office park, well away from any historic roads.

Moto Cafe

You can’t have it all, I suppose. But perhaps my VP friend and I can meet for lunch sometimes at the campus’s motorcycle-themed Moto Cafe. Heck, I can even come on my own; it’s open to the public. Reviewers on Yelp like it.


I love the Michigan and National Roads! Read everything I’ve written about the Michigan Road here, and about the National Road here.

Advertisements
Standard

15 thoughts on “Lifting a blighted neigborhood: The Angie’s List campus

  1. Great story and pictures. So good to hear that there are places where companies do so much for the community. It’s also good to hear that you’ve found employment. Well done.

    Barry

    Like

  2. I had heard about the Angie’s List campus, but had never seen it. Is the fire station building the one that used to be home to the Firehouse film processing company back in the 80s and 90s? If so, I was in that building a time or two back then.

    Like

      • Steve Miller says:

        Yes, this was the location of Firehouse Color Lab. Pretty sure the brick sidewalk was part of that original restoration. The was also a graphic design/advertising company located on the top floor of the building. Though this was one of the first efforts to revitalize the neighborhood. this takes away nothing from the impressive work Angie’s List has done in rehabbing buildings for their campus. (Now, as I understand it, they just need to make some money…)

        Like

  3. Doug Smith says:

    Kudos to Angie! The fourth photo in today’s series reveals several “refreshed” ghost signs, which in itself demonstrates sensitivity to historic buildings and their hand-painted advertisements, vintage wall art at its best!

    Think Roanoke, Virginia…

    Doug Smith

    Like

  4. Nice tour! I support the concept of preservation but this use is far, far better than no use. Preservationists who are purists generally live in a fiscally unsustainable dream world.
    btw, great profile picture.

    Like

    • Yes David, I agree: unsustainable dream world. I love seeing old structures restored and reused, but you really can’t save them all. It’s not always feasible or wise from a practical standpoint.

      Like

    • Thanks Dani! Employees walking around campus weren’t even remotely curious about Margaret and I wandering around with our cameras. I guess we looked mostly harmless.

      Like

Share your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s