We were waiting to see how the fight for this project turned out before writing anything about it, but, due to ridiculous NIMBYism, this development may end up in court. Developer Olaf Lava LLC is planning to construct a 19-unit apartment building that will span four lots: 517 W. 10th St. and 944, 946 and 954 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. A 27-unit building is slated for 1010 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. Originally calling for sets of duplexes at 517 W. 10th St. and 933 and 935 N. California St, the design was changed to single-family homes by request of IHPC in order to appease the wishes of residents. Now, the same residents appeased by the Sudetenland that is lower density are aiming for more living space by suing IPHC, claiming higher density really is that bad.
“If you stand on the lot where this (project) is proposed, you can see that it’s preposterous to put apartment buildings here,” attorney Jessica Webb so eloquently states. Nevermind the fact that this project is near an urban college campus hosting over 30,000 students or the fact it is located in a downtown neighborhood in one of America’s largest cities.
What makes this argument even more despicable is now, the NIMBYs are bringing out the race card. The lawsuit states: “Ransom Place is a historically black neighborhood that still takes great pride in its rich diversity. There is a very real concern that the residents of Ransom Place are not receiving equal protection under the law because of their race. If racial discrimination played even a small part in the IHPC’s decision … it must be reversed.”
You got to be kidding me.
Yes, historically Ransom Place was part of a much-larger archipelago of Midwestern city neighborhoods that harbored and cultivated Black culture. Yes, Indiana Avenue was lined with jazz clubs and churches and barbershops and yes, Black culture thrived here and around Ransom Place (one of the best surviving examples of this is the Walker Theatre). However, this lawsuit obviously finds more truth in what was than what is.
Beginning in 1949, the federal government’s urban renewal program was initiated as a systematic destruction of “blighted” neighborhoods -which mostly meant Black neighborhoods near downtown. Indianapolis leaders, realizing the Federal Highway Administration was not intending to “loop” downtown with interstates, set off to use urban renewal dollars in order to transform West Street into a city highway. Using eminent domain, many of those jazz clubs and saloons and churches and barbershops were demolished for the sake of clearing “blight”. Years later, American urbanists would come to realize that the “root shock” caused by systematic destruction of inner-city neighborhoods effectively destroyed vibrant Black communities and hindered possibility of connecting a greatly-stretched Black archipelago of neighborhoods into the whole of America.
Take a walk through Ransom Place now. Because of its proximity to campus, I am sure there’s a decent, sustainable amount of diversity. But you’d see no African-American saloons or jazz clubs. Beautiful, tree-lined streets with burgeoning real-estate value shading the surface parking-lot ghosts of former clubs on Indiana Ave is what you see. What this lawsuit is fighting for does not exist. Once, but no longer.
If you want to preserve history then fight to make sure it is not forgotten.
But do not preserve it by fighting a development that will assist in bettering your area of the city. Do not preserve it by filing a lawsuit which makes your neighborhood seem like an off-limits zone for developers.