Urban Legacy Lands Initiative Launches Under Diocesan Sponsorship

The Urban Legacy Lands Initiative (ULLI) a newly-established Cultural Heritage Development Corporation (CHDC) introduced its executive team and discussed its inaugural scope of work today at a press conference at St. Philip’s, Indianapolis.

The project is supported by a pair of $800,000 grants to the Diocese of Indianapolis from Lilly Endowment, Inc., and the Mellon Foundation. The diocese is serving as financial sponsor for the new initiative.

ULLI plans to create a model for the preservation and stewardship of Black heritage communities through equitable and inclusive neighborhood growth and development, according to a press release. The organization’s primary focus will be Historic Indiana Avenue, one of the nation’s most significant Black heritage communities, where nearly 5,000 homes and businesses were razed to make way for the construction of interstate highways and other development between 1958 and 2000.

“In the great many meetings it took to establish the relationships and develop the vision that brought us to this moment, I became accustomed to the question, “Why exactly is the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis here?” said Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale, the diocese’s canon to the ordinary for administration and evangelism, who represented Bishop Jennifer at the gathering.

“One simple answer to that question has to do with where we are today,” he said. “St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, the only historically Black congregation in the diocese, has been a bold witness to the love of Jesus Christ in this area since the 1880s, always within a few hundred feet of this spot. We have a natural interest in making sure that development in this area is in the best interests of this congregation.

“But a deeper reason lies in the stated mission of this diocese, which is to serve as beacons of Jesus Christ in Central and Southern Indiana, to offer generous hospitality, to stand with the marginalized and transform systems of injustice, to connect with interfaith partners and all people of good will, and to develop leaders for the church of today and tomorrow.”

The Historic Indianapolis Avenue Area includes numerous landmarks listed in the National Register of Historic Places including the Madam [C. J.] Walker Legacy Center, Lockefield Gardens, Crispus Attucks High School, Historic Ransom Place, the 500 block of Indiana Avenue, “Colored” Knights of Pythias headquarters, Flanner House Homes and St. Philip’s, one of the few remaining historically Black congregations in the area.

“We are exceedingly grateful for and incredibly proud of the support we have received from Mellon Foundation and Lilly Endowment to preserve and rebuild Black heritage communities,” said ULLI President Claudia Polley, an Indianapolis native. “For generations, Indiana Avenue has suffered tremendous neglect and disrepair. This funding changes that trajectory. Instead of accepting the worst of its past, we now have an opportunity to restore the Avenue’s history of vibrancy, connectivity and culture. ULLI allows us to use the best of the past as a catalyst for the best of the future.”

© 2021 Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis