Indianola almost didn't make it to its centennial.
In the early 2000s, a developer from out-of-state was eyeing the dilapidated mall as a site for a multi-story, student apartment tower. Its plans called for razing all the existing structures.
Fortunately, a local developer, who grew up in the area, bought the property first.
Meanwhile, changes were taking place in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Stirred to action by several student murders in the University District, the city, the state, and Ohio State University mobilized to improve the area. The US Justice Department became involved and smashed the drug gangs infesting the area. Millions of dollars poured in for increased policing, code enforcement, nuisance abatement, and infrastructure improvement. Slumlords began to be driven out of the neighborhoods. Community organizations pushed to better the University District.
The South Campus Gateway project, completed in 2005, was perhaps the most noticeable expression of these changes. A squalid, deteriorating student bar district was torn down and replaced with modern mixed retail, residential, and office buildings, hewing to New Urbanist ideas.
Attracted by improving conditions and fine old houses, homeowners slowly began trickling back into the neighborhood. After a half-century of neglect, old homes were restored to their former glory. Grass was mowed, flowers bloomed, snow was shoveled, and vigilant eyes kept a look out for trouble. Retirees, young professionals, and families with children began to diversify the neighborhoods.
In early 2006, the property changed hands again.
Xenos Christian Fellowship, a ministry to the Ohio State University campus, was losing its home of more than 30 years on E. 16th Ave. An arduous search followed. The church's leaders struggled to find some place close to campus, that was big enough to serve their needs, had sufficient parking available, and was on the market. The old Indianola Park Shopping Center fit the bill.
After purchasing the property, the church spent close to $4 million dollars to rennovate it. Basic repairs and long-deferred maintenance were undertaken. Aging plumbing, heating/cooling, and electrical systems were replaced. New lighting was added. Trees planted. The lot was repaved. A deteriorating Quonoset hut was rehabbed and turned into a coffee bar. The old dance pavilion became the church's meeting area.
As part of the deal, the church was required to take the mall. Long-time tenants Soussi Market and Suzi-Cue Pool Hall remain and are slowly being joined by new tenants like a pizza shop and an art gallery.
The complex has once again become a part of community life. Neighbors and students frequently stop by the coffee bar. On Election Day, area voters cast their ballots inside the old pavilion. In the summer, the parking lot hosts an urban farmer's market. A weekly clinic provides medical care to needy neighbors.
The new owners are aware and proud of the location's history. Several paintings in the meeting area show scenes from the area's past as an amusement park. Word is that a mural will soon appear depicting scenes from a century ago when this site was home to Indianola Park.