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Developer scraps plans for Indiana Avenue Apartments

Group pushes for projects honoring Black history
Posted at 11:22 PM, Nov 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 19:32:54-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Excitement, energy and passion from grassroots organizers determined to reclaim the Indiana Avenue corridor. "I was just overwhelmed with emotion!" said Mallory Ervin. "Excitement! Excitement for the possibilities!" said Jeff Williams.

Mallory Ervin and Jeff Williams are among the loud voices who pushed back against plans from local development group Buckingham Companies to build a large apartment building with a parking garage and retail space directly between the Indianapolis Urban League office and the Madam Walker Legacy Center.

That plan was met with much criticism, mostly through online petitioning from the group Reclaim Indiana Avenue. Now Buckingham Companies has dropped its plans for the project.

"It was affirmation that myself and other, our voice matters when it comes to development in our community," Ervin said.

These organizers say they are not against development on Indiana Ave, in fact that's exactly what they want. But they want every project to reflect Indiana's rich black history and culture which was birthed along the avenue.

"We want people to come through here on the Cultural Trail or to visit Indiana Avenue for them to feel the spirit of the Black community. Its working well in cities like D.C., Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas and Houston and we feel like Indianapolis deserves to have that as well," Williams said.

Both Ervin and Williams say they want to see Indiana Avenue re-imagined from its current underdeveloped state and back to something that resembles the destination that was once home to Madam CJ Walker, and a number of businesses, restaurants, jazz clubs, affordable homes, and in the future a black history museum. But before drawing out any floor plans, developers should beware, the community is paying attention.

"We're telling them that if you want to be on Indiana Avenue, you have to go through us. You have to bring us to the table. You must bring us to the table and you must meet our demands," said Ervin.

In statement to WRTV, Jim Smith, a spokesperson for Buckingham Companies cited COVID-19 as the reason for the change in plans for Indiana Avenue.

"Despite the best intentions of everyone involved and not unlike so many other worthwhile endeavors during this time, the pursuit of a feasible project was undermined by the impact of a once in a hundred years’ pandemic that took away the reasonable opportunity to complete the development at this time. We appreciate the efforts and leadership of the Madam Walker Legacy Center and all the other stakeholders with an interest in this incredibly important site," Smith said.