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A Midwestern Neighborhood Manufactures a New Culture for Indianapolis

by Kristy Alpert

Feb 10, 2022

PHOTO: © VISIT INDY

January/February 2022

Indianapolis is booming. According to the World Population Review, the city experienced a growth increase of 8.14 percent in the past year alone, with new infrastructure, new jobs and a wave of innovative entrepreneurs breathing energy into the greater city limits. No neighborhood has been immune to this urban revival, but also no neighborhood has played a bigger role than Windsor Park, just northeast of downtown.

Here a series of abandoned warehouses, deserted factories and empty lots that once exemplified Indiana’s Rust Belt transformed into vibrant art galleries, urban park systems and community-centric businesses the likes of which the city has never seen. The Circle City Industrial Complex — one of the first major projects in the neighborhood — renovated and restored a 540,000-square-foot industrial space into a commercial center now home to a diverse group of tenants including artists, makers, restaurants, breweries, small businesses and more.

“Windsor Park has undergone tremendous growth since we purchased the Circle City Industrial Complex six years ago,” said Rachel Ferguson, vice president, Teagen Development. “Just from the CCIC’s front door we can see nearly a dozen new homes that have been built since we came to the neighborhood and more lots for sale that will accommodate new single-family homes.”

When the CCIC building was first constructed in 1918, many of the adjacent homes were occupied by the people who worked in the factory, then the Schwitzer manufacturing facility. “Now most of our neighbors have no existing connection to the CCIC,” Ferguson explained. “So in the past six years, our decisions have been heavily informed by what would add value to the neighborhood. That’s meant leaning away from the building’s traditional intensive industrial uses that can create noise and pollution and heavy truck traffic and more toward uses like Centerpoint Brewing [a brewery with a family- and dog-friendly tasting room that holds events like Thursday night trivia], Dance Kaleidoscope [a modern dance company that also offers dance classes for children], or our many artists and galleries and craftspeople who the neighborhood and general public can come visit and enjoy on the first Friday of every month. It has proven to be a symbiotic relationship, with the neighbors providing an important customer base for our tenants and our tenants providing attractive amenities and gathering spots to the neighborhood.”

As in many major cities, the development of a neighborhood on the immediate outskirts of an urban center proves attractive for people who want to be within walking and biking distance of the bars, restaurants and culture of downtown but desire ending the night in a quiet place in a safe neighborhood.

“I think that the resurgence of our near-downtown neighborhoods has been highly positive,” added Edward Battista, president, Indianapolis Property Holdings, and founding board member of Indianapolis Film. “It’s a national trend that is highly beneficial to the dining, arts and culture of a healthy and growing urban core. [Windsor Park] is and always has been a strong community. While there are a lot of changes happening, most of what has always made Windsor Park great persists. I consider it of the utmost importance to celebrate what the community already is instead of letting the historical fabric fade as new people move into the community.”

Battista has been behind some of Indianapolis’s most successful (and most beloved) institutions, including restaurants Bluebeard, Milktooth and King Dough. His latest ventures have all taken place in Windsor Park, where locals flock to the European-style baked goods at Amelia’s Bakery and book reservations well in advance at the three-screen cinema and restaurant Kan-Kan Cinema and Brasserie. “There is nothing like it nationally,” Battista beamed. “It’s a 501c3 art house cinema dedicated to the development of film arts in our city. It is a dining experience helmed by six-time James Beard Foundation- recognized chef Abbi Merriss. It’s playful. It’s community- driven. And it’s all about art and experiences.”

And it only exists in Windsor Park.

The cinema — available for meetings and events — is part of a movement gaining momentum in the neighborhood. Here new projects include the first brick-and-mortar location of Sidedoor Bagel (a local farmer’s market favorite selling New York-style bagels from the CCIC parking lot each summer and fall) and a recent multimillion-dollar investment in a trail system. It will fully connect Windsor Park and the Near East Side to the Marian and Gene Glick Indianapolis Cultural Trail and the Monon Trail.

“The shift from the suburbs to the urban core or urban core adjacent is an incredibly meaningful development for the future of Indianapolis,” Battista added. “There is a lot to celebrate right now.”

SCENIC DRIVES

Head one hour south on Highway 65 toward Brown County State Park to explore one of the hilliest parks of the state. The scenic views start just before you exit city limits and continue until you’ve reached Indiana’s largest state park. During the fall, the leaves put on a dramatic display, with more than 20 miles of tree-lined roads and scenic vistas, but in winter the more than 30 hiking trails delight hikers with paved and trail options (no snowshoes necessary).

Head west for an hour- and-15-minute drive to Turkey Run State Park. On the way, a drive through Parke County’s historic covered bridges sets the stage for the beauty and history to come. Many historic sites and homes remain from the 1800s throughout the park and are open for exploration, even the 1871 Log Church that holds services at 10 a.m. on Sundays during the warmer months. During winter, the nature center and hiking trails keep guests entertained. The Big Tree Trail has become a favorite as it winds three miles toward the historic Narrows Covered Bridge and nearby Goose Rock and the Lusk Earth Fill before ending at Box Canyon.

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FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

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