INDIANAPOLIS — Claudia Polley wants to bring vitality back to Historic Indiana Avenue.
“We want it vibrant. We want it alive the way it used to be," Polley said. “The family has been here since 1904. Started in this very neighborhood.”
Polley is President of Urban Legacy Lands Initiative or ULLI.
The Indianapolis-based nonprofit concentrates on preserving and protecting Black cultural heritage.
After moving away from the Hoosier state 20 years ago, she’s back in Indy with a mission.
“It was time to do something, otherwise we would lose the history and heritage of Indiana Avenue and all that work that our forefathers and mothers did in providing wonderful for us, their grandchildren and great grandchildren," she said.
Historic Indiana Avenue used to be the epicenter of Black culture and business in Indianapolis.
But, development of the interstate, construction of the IUPUI campus, desegregation and gentrification changed that.
ULLI estimates that in the last 70 years, as many as 5,000 residences and businesses were erased.
“The time has come for the highlighting and the elevation of the Avenue and the history of the Avenue and what it symbolizes, in terms of the history of Black America and the history of Black Indianapolis," Indianapolis City-County Council President Vop Osili said.
Osili has had conversations with the community about Indiana Avenue’s revitalization since the 1980s.
So, what’s different in 2023?
Osili says there’s a greater desire to understand where you came from and reclaim your roots.
“Now we can do this not because we don’t have anywhere else to go or any other part of the city that we can go to. We want it, now, because it is a reflection of you and all that you went through, to make me what I am today," he said.
Polley says she’s looking forward to furthering the dialogue about what the Avenue could be in the future.
“We need to help fill in some of the vacant lots with good people, good work. This is not just an area for Black people. This is an area for people who have respect for the history of who was here but who are looking forward to make it a fabulous place again," she said.
There is currently no constructive plan in place for Historic Indiana Avenue’s revitalization.
Osili says it will take community- wide conversations to come up with a modern interpretation with historical perspective.
As these ideas blossom, WRTV will continue to update you on the latest.
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