By Kimmie Collins
Nov 16, 2021
“Somebody should do something about that,” Mark, ’07 and Tiffany, ’08, Baker said to each other, as high schoolers, when they walked past the abandoned buildings in Terre Haute’s historic 12 Points District.
“Somebody should do something about that.” They thought this as they watched the once-bustling neighborhood fall into disarray, with empty storefronts and dilapidated buildings lined along the intersection of Lafayette and Maple Avenues.
“Somebody should do something about that,” they mused, noting the untapped potential in their hometown.
The Bakers have always been doers. While Tiffany studied for her accounting degree from Indiana State, a recruiter from the Department of Defense visited her class. After the presentation, Tiffany confidently raised her hand and declared, ‘I’m going to work for you. What do I need to do to make that happen?’
Her bold strategy worked – she earned an internship that summer, and after she completed her degree and Mark completed his industrial supervision degree, Tiffany accepted a full-time job at the Department of Defense.
“If there’s someone who’s doing something that you would like to do or you would like to know more about, don’t be scared to ask them,” she advised.
Tiffany’s career took them to Italy, Colorado, and Japan, whisking the family on adventures around the world. Though they loved the travel, the Bakers felt they weren’t living the lives they wanted to live.
“At the end of a 14- or 15-hour day, I would sit down, take a breath, look at Tiffany, and say, ‘You know, I just realized that I didn’t get to hold my baby once today,’ Mark said.
They had made future plans to leave their jobs and move back to Terre Haute, but when Mark’s father passed away in June 2018, they realized they wanted to be closer to family as soon as possible. Mark and Tiffany, again, were reminded that how they navigated the future was up to them.
Inspired by the Peter Thiel quote, “How can you achieve your 10-year goal in the next six months?” Mark, Tiffany, and their three daughters accelerated their plans and returned to Terre Haute eager to begin their new careers of “no careers.”
“I’m not going to wait 10 years to make my dreams happen, so let’s just try it,” Tiffany thought.
Now, the Bakers’ short-term plan is to create long-term impact focused on restoring and revitalizing the 12 Points neighborhood. During the move away from their careers, Mark and Tiffany created a real-estate company, 3 Sisters Investments. Their own business allows them to restore and modernize local structures, but also, most importantly to them, to control their time. Named in honor of the couple’s three daughters, the company has purchased two historic buildings in 12 Points: the PARQ at 12 Points and Eight Twelve. The buildings will house space for eight commercial tenants and five residential tenants, with 15 studio and workspaces for creatives.
Mark and Tiffany set the ambitious goal to bring 12 new businesses to 12 Points in 12 months. Dubbed the Year of 12, the quest has already helped several local shops open their doors, including Sons’ Spice Co. and Studio 12, both of which are also owned by Sycamores.
“We make our goals for a year out so clear and defined that they’re already a reality in our minds,” Mark said. “I already know what 12 Points looks like when it’s finished. I already see it.”
The Bakers’ efforts earned 3 Sisters Investments the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 Building Community Award, but they don’t work alone.
“We need other people to be behind our vision,” said Tiffany. “The reason this is successful is because there are other people coming on board.”
The initiatives in 12 Points have brought a community together through car shows, trunk-or-treats, and other family-friendly events. Earlier this year, the Bakers and the nonprofit organization 12 Points Revitalization, Inc. set a goal to raise $50,000, which the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority would match. The community rose to the occasion, raising more than $70,000 in the crowdfunding campaign. A total of $160,000 was raised for the revitalization efforts.
“Everyone has something they can give. They’re doing what they can because they believe in it, too,” said Mark.
The funds, provided by people passionate about Terre Haute’s future, will support the transformation of the community, including bike racks and strings of lights, as well as free Wi-Fi for residents.
“I want a lot of people in the streets, with artists and events there all the time,” Tiffany said. “The main goal is that we bring back this community in a way that is walkable and so all your needs can be met without a car.”
Moving halfway across the world, leaving successful corporate careers, and revitalizing a historic community are ambitions many would consider intimidating, but the Bakers flung themselves wholeheartedly into their dreams, ready for the challenges ahead. There was no time to be paralyzed by finding the “perfect” time to move forward.
“Don’t wait for perfect,” Tiffany urged. “People think the stars have to align, and they’ll get a ‘sign.’ Just do it. You’ll figure it out along the way.”
Now, Tiffany and Mark Baker walk past the PARQ at 12 Points building and smile. The sixth business has celebrated its grand opening during the Year of 12, with more set to open soon. Plans to utilize the funds from the crowdfunding campaign are already in place, and strands of lights twinkle over 12 Points in the evening sky. They watch their daughters giggle and frolic in the neighborhood as it once again comes to life.
Somebody did something about that.