As part of my presentation over the weekend at the west side Preservation Summit, I spoke about the Indianapolis Urban turnaround as it relates to Historic neighborhoods. Indianapolis was victim of misguided Urban renewal "blight abatement". The city bulldozed 6570 housing units as part of blight abatement. Almost all were pre 1920 and most were pre 1900. there is a reason why people don't travel to Indy to see its architecture like they do Charleston, Savannah or New Orleans, Indy bulldozed it and if you ask most people who live here there they will tell you it was a major mistake.
But some were saved and the "poster child' for neighborhood turnaround might well be Lockerbie Square. Just minutes from downtown it is a perfect example that Urban blight can be transformed to beauty. Lockerbie started out life as home to mostly German immigrants. The houses were small shotguns typically 12-15 feet wide and maybe 30 foot deep. There are some large homes built in the later 1880's but Lockerbie was known as a cottage neighborhood. By the early 1970's Lockerbie was, well a slum. Cars on blocks, vacant lots turned into junkyards a mix of low income rentals and industrial. the large houses had been divided up into apartments. Few thought the area would, ever be anything and most suggested it just be bulldozed for parking.Small "shotgun cottages" like this one , 12 feet wide 30 ft deep command as much as 250K!
But a few people with vision saw the potential and began moving in. These were the early Urban Pioneers who mostly worked downtown and could walk to their homes. When the freeway came through many homes were moved to this area and those were quickly snapped up. It didn't take long before some major projects came, quality infill was constructed and Lockerbie came back to life. Today those little 'shotgun cottages are 250K , 500K or more if they had additions on the back. The big houses fetch prices near a million or more."Known by locals as the "Tarzian Mansion" this house was offered to the city as mayors residence, the mayor turned down the offer. Restored today, if it came on the market, it would bring between 2-3 million."
BUT, it could have just been another parking lot were it not for vision. It was that success that led to other areas in Indy turning around Chatham arch, St Joseph, Old Northside, Herron Morton. You would never know looking at Indy today what it used to look like and how we. almost, lost it all. This is what neighborhood turnaround is all about, taking the ordinary, the ugly and transforming it to something wonderful. That is a lesson we can learn when we look at "blighted neighborhoods" . They do not have to remain that way and to tear them down is shortsighted.
"Creation of green spaces like these was part of the planning process for neighborhood turnaround and was part of the plan approval for the townhouse condos built next door"
"Part of a entire street of newer infill these houses invoke the historic character of the neighborhood and compliment the existing historic architecture. Luxury infill like this sells for 600-800K"
"This intact row of 1880's Italianate rowhouses are now a luxury apartment complex. Indianapolis used to have blocks of buildings like this bulldozed in the name of blight abatement"
"One of the first new construction project in the area were these townhouses built as part of the Lockerbie Glove factory condo development.""The James Whitcomb Riley Museum home is a major tourist attraction in the downtown neighborhood"
"Luxury High End Architect designed homes like this blend seamlessly with the Historic architecture thanks to a strong preservation standards that govern all new construction"
"Years ago you might have seen engine blocks and car parts in front of this house, now you see blocks of a different kind"
So the next time you look at Fairmount or lower Price Hill and say to yourself "no body would ever want to live there, they should just bulldoze it", Think again and remember hindsight is 20/20.