INDIANAPOLIS — On Sunday, families gathered in Riverside Park for the annual Lockefield Gardens reunion.
Lockefield was Indy's first public housing project. It was built as part of the New Deal. In 1938, the complex opened 748 modern apartments for low-income Black families.
"It was better than a community. It was like we're all kin to each other," former resident Jerry Allen said. "When you haven't seen them in a while, and then you come back together, it's a feeling you can't explain."
Over subsequent decades, city leaders refused to renovate. Most of the complex was eventually torn down in 1983 to make room for an IU Medical School expansion.
These days, the remaining buildings have been turned into a luxury apartment complex. Nearly a dozen new buildings have been added, and the IU expansion has become IUPUI.
"Eminent domain. There's nothing we could do about it. Now we just keep in touch with each other. Now we just come together for this event," Lockefield Civic Organization director James Bailey said.
"Lockefield was a utopia. But then after that, everything splintered and fractured. The cohesiveness we had as a community, a family, a group," Allen said.
"It dissipated," Allen's friend James Heglar said
Heglar also lived in Lockefield and drove from Columbus to be at the reunion.
Former residents now savor their fleeting moments together on the second Sunday in July.
Mayor Joe Hogsett said he's trying to restore a sense of community to neighborhoods.
"These folks have been members of this community for years and years and years, so this is a picnic I try to make every year," he said.
Programs to increase connectivity and improve walkability are a part of the effort.
Former residents know it's too late to replace what they've lost, but they hope it can be rebuilt for the next generation.
"The cohesion has to be there, in order to make anything they want to work through. That's just the bottom line," Heglar said.
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