Nestled on the northwest outskirts of downtown Indy, bound by 25th and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. streets, lies a gem of a community.
Nestled on the northwest outskirts of downtown Indy, bound by 25th and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. streets, lies a gem of a community. Rich in heritage, culture and green space, King Commons is home to a main street that honors Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an icon of American history. King Commons is a unique community with a strong Black identity and many interesting cultural initiatives. King’s legacy is an enduring part of the cultural commons, shaping the community’s drive for peace, justice and prosperity. King Commons is characterized by the West African Adinkra symbol Bese Sake, located in the center of the Flanner House gardens, which represents agriculture, influence, power, abundance, plenty, togetherness and unity.
Prior to the Great Places initiative, King Commons was characterized by stagnant population growth, high rates of residents without a high school diploma, low median household incomes, and high vacancy rates. In 2018, 87 percent of King Commons’ residents were Black, an increase of 4 percent since 2015. The proportion of Latinx residents in the neighborhood also increased over this time frame, from 3 percent in 2015 to 6 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, the percentage of white residents in King Commons decreased, from 6 percent in 2015 to less than 2 percent in 2018.
As part of the city-wide Great Places initiative, King Commons has completed a strategic planning process that identifies goals and strategies in four areas: Livability, Opportunity, Vitality and Education.
Become the hub for African American arts and culture
Promote resilience through community agriculture and celebrating Flanner House’s historic role in this area
Update Watkins Park and other public spaces based on usage and opportunity
Improve relationships across the neighborhood
Develop connectivity, enhance sustainability, and improve the pedestrian experience of streets, alleys, and other public spaces that impact the area
Connect residents with a spectrum of educational and career opportunities, from tech to advanced and sustainable building trades
Provide financial help to nurture start-up businesses of all types, including food-based businesses, the tech industry, renewables, and skilled trades
Develop a mixed-use presence at 25th and MLK to be a center of community and commercial prosperity
Create and grow relationships with nearby institutions and local businesses
Increase variety of housing options and prices appealing to existing AfricanAmerican community, and former residents who’ve left in recent decades
Create affordable home ownership opportunities for renters programs, offering training in rehab and homesteading
Develop resilient and sustainable concepts for homeowners that are forward-looking and reduce energy costs
Promote employer incentive housing in partnership with nearby anchor institutions.
Boost access to existing programs and funding for home repairs and upkeep
Develop more relationships with local schools as they evolve in the area
Provide education opportunities and environments for children beyond the core curriculum of schools
Provide social support services for K-12 students that address obstacles that impede learning
Offer educational programs to increase job opportunities and readiness
Connect residents to opportunities for post-secondary education with local institutions
Seventy-five strategies were identified to achieve the LOVE goals in King Commons, and progress on these strategies was recorded by the neighborhood coordinator. After two years, 44 percent of the strategies to achieve LOVE goals in King Commons were either recorded as completed or in progress, while 56% had either no action, had stalled, or had no information entered.
Health and/or recreational facilities improved: 3
Projects within 1 block of projected transit corridors: 1
Greenspace improvements: 14
Connectivity improvements: 1
Cultural/creative placemaking events: 48
People impacted by food initiatives: 389
Public safety and community partnerships: 15
Health partners engaging/investing in the area: 16
Brownfields tested or remediated: 1
New jobs created: 74
Small businesses assisted: 234
Commercial square footage improved: 7
Housing units new or improved for rent: 52
Housing units new or improved for sale: 22
Center for Working Families (CWF) participants
Bridge programming: 50
CWF participants increasing credit score: 70
CWF participants increasing net income: 138
CWF participants increasing net worth: 0
CWF participants obtaining job: 89
Flanner House has been a community anchor for over a century, providing educational, social and economic resources including Flanner Farm; the Farming, Education, Employment and Distribution, or FEED, program; a shared kitchen; a day care; and an orchard.
On the heels of the Double 8 grocery stores closing, Flanner House established its 2.5 acre Flanner Farm to address widespread food scarcity. Flanner Farm provides healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate produce to those who need it most, while becoming food secure and self-sufficient in the process.
Cleo’s Bodega & Cafe opened its doors in 2019, giving area residents access to healthy, affordable foods. The combination grocery store and restaurant sells produce grown by Flanner House, Cleo’s parent organization. It also serves as a WiFi hub for the community.
Watkins Park is a 21-acre urban oasis with picturesque views of the Indianapolis skyline. Featuring a picnic shelter, playground, and numerous sporting facilities for basketball, football, baseball and horseshoes, the park is also a popular destination for events and concerts.
King Commons is host to many community events including the Black Owned Business Block Party, highlighting more than 100 businesses across numerous industries, and Open Bite Night, featuring delicious food dishes from local cooks, chefs, caterers and aspiring food professionals.
Flanner House Orchard is a neighborhood-led project that serves as a gathering space and reflects the community’s vision and culture; complete with a plethora of fruit trees, raised beds, a playscape and learning space.
Primed for completion in 2021,
Canal Village includes 37 single-family homes for low- to moderate- income residents on the Northwest side. Offered on a rent-to-own basis, the project provides a needed pathway to homeownership.
Several colorful murals now welcome residents and visitors at the northern entrance to the King Commons Great Place. Located in Girton Plaza, the artwork was created by resident artists in partnership with Groundwork Indy.
New Life Development Ministries completed renovation of a formerly vacant building located at 2819 Clifton Street to function as a construction trade training center for returning citizens.
Interested in getting involved in the efforts of this Great Place? Contact Brandon Cosby.