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October 2, 2014

Debating Our Progress

At end of October, it will be five years since I returned to Indianapolis after living in Chicago for over 7 1/2 years.  In just those five years, I have been witness to so much change.  In Fountain Square, Virginia Street is fully populated with condos, apartments, local eateries, bike trails, ...the list goes on.  You go over to Mass Ave. and it's the same story.  From end to end, so much change.  Yet, is this progress?

I recall eagerly showing my mom my first apartment downtown Indianapolis off of 12th and Alabama.  After living with my parents for a short while, I was happy to have my own place again.  As a transplant back to Indianapolis, I was happy to be nearet to my community friends and back in an area where I could walk to work and a local coffee shop.  Yet, as I toured my mom through my apartment, she stopped and paused at the window.  She stood there staring out of the trees into the skyline view that I was so happy to have.  After living in Chicago, I loved having the city glow shine into my window at night.  However, my mom's attention was captured by something else. 

"I used to live right over there."  She pointed in a southeast direction out of my window towards Central.  She explained how the house that she grew up in was right at Central and what would now be I-70.  I imagine she saw a similar, view from her window as a child.  Oddly enough, I had heard a similar story from my dad before he passed.  The day he drove me through Fountain Square telling me about the "old neighborhood."  When asking him for more details about where he used to live, he paused in trying to explain it.  Well, it was south Kenwood and kind of Illinois...near where they meet I-70.  His old house did not exist anymore.  This isn't only my parents' story.  Many people in many communities across the nation have similar stories of displacement at the price of progress.  IUPUI published a book of the same title, The Price of Progress, which tells the story of the displacement of residents on the near-Westside.

It is for this reason, and many other reasons, that I question our progress.  I question not for the sake of judgement, but for really wanting to know the way to build a vibrant city that everyone can share in.  How do we do it? 

The INRC poses the following questions: As Indianapolis has experienced growth and change over the last 20 years, has access increased to support this growth?  Downtown has developed, but outlying townships feel disconnected.  Neighbors may know one another more, yet public safety remains a growing concern.  Sport teams are thriving, with more diverse offerings and building of stadiums, but are the city¹s everyday residents able to enjoy these events 20 years later?  

To dig into this conversation, the INRC will be hosting a moderated public debate, Debating Our Progress, as part of Spirit & Place.  Debate teams from Butler University & IUPUI will battle the question of progress in our Indianapolis.  Following the moderated debate, the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center and AmeriCorps Public Allies members will facilitate a discussion and visioning session with attendees, as they indentify opportunities and dreams for access in Indianapolis over the next 20 years.  The goal of the event is to have a candid, thoughtful conversation about our past, identify what we want to see as our future, and identify ways in which we can all play a role in increasing access, so that we all can access opportunities for an even stronger community.

To find out more details about this event, please visit our Spirit & Place event page.