Mellon Foundation and Lilly Endowment Inc. Award Grants Totaling $1.6 Million to Support Indianapolis-Based Urban Legacy Lands Initiative

Grants for the benefit of the preservation of cultural heritage and education by Collaborative Community Engagement and Land Use Strategies for black heritage in Indianapolis and northeastern Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS, June 15, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Urban Legacy Lands Initiative Inc. (ULLI)a newly created Cultural Heritage Development Corporation (CHDC), receives support from two $800,000 grants, totaling $1.6 millionfrom New YorkMellon Foundation and the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. Funding was awarded to the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, which serves as ULLI’s fiscal sponsor. The head of the diocese, the bishop Jennifer Baskerville Burrowswas one of the main promoters of ULLI’s mission and commitment to cultural heritage.

Indiana Avenue, 1964. Source: Indiana Album, Paul W. Wetzel Collection

ULLI will showcase its leadership team and inaugural scope on Wednesday, June 22, 2022at Saint-Philippe Episcopal Church, 720 Dr. Martin Luther King jr. St, Indianapolis, Indianaat 11:30 a.m. Saint-Philippeone of the few remaining historically black congregations in the area, has served the large Indiana Avenue community since the 1880s.

The grants will support ULLI’s focus on centering black cultural heritage in historic revitalization, land use planning, and placemaking. This new CHDC will seek to create a model for the preservation and stewardship of Black heritage communities through equitable and inclusive neighborhood growth and development. ULLI will primarily focus on Historic Indiana Avenue, one of the nation’s most prominent black heritage communities, which had nearly 5,000 homes and businesses razed between 1958 and 2000. League, Goodwin SquareLockefield Gardens*, Saint-Philippe Episcopal Church*, Crispus Attucks High School *, Historic Ransom Place*, Fayette Street Historic Neighborhood, the 500 block of Indiana Avenue*, the headquarters of the “colored” Knights of Pythias* and Flanner House Homes*. *listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Additional work will focus on the preservation of historic Fox Lake, a resort community located Steuben County in northeast Indiana also listed in the National Register. It is about to celebrate its hundredth anniversary and is one of only two existing Black Lake resorts in the country. Fox Lake founding families included executives of the Madam Walker Manufacturing Company who, along with other black professionals from Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Detroitand Chicagosought a safe place for their families to recreate.

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

The non-profit CHDC will champion two key projects –ULLI Land and ULLI Heritage:

  • ULLI Land is the ongoing study and application of best practices and land use planning in/for Black heritage communities, beginning with Historic Indiana Avenue and Historic Fox Lake.

  • ULLI Heritage will focus on black scholarship – within the academy and through personal inquiry – and the practical application of it to support heritage preservation in black communities. The grants will support the establishment of the ULLI Heritage and Humanities Scholarship Program at IUPUI’s Center for African Studies and Culture (CASC), which will be housed at the Madam Walker Legacy Center, the district’s only National Historic Landmark. The scholarship program is unique because ACCS graduate and undergraduate students will receive immersive training and then research black history in Indianapolis to find out how this story can inform the future. This is especially important for these research teams as it allows them to see the positive effect of the work they are doing in their own communities of color.

In 2020, OG Ink Ltd, a small group of elders focused on black heritage, came together to find better solutions for the future of Historic Indiana Avenue. Their efforts followed the example of work started by Reclaim Indiana Avenue and were energized by the Black Lives Matter movement due to the demand for change that emerged after by George Floyd murder. ULLI was born out of these urgent and creative times.

Not only rooted in the past, ULLI is headquartered at 16 Tech, the innovation district at the north end of Indiana Avenue, a tangible demonstration of ULLI’s investment in the future of the neighborhood.


Urban Legacy Lands Initiative Inc. is a Cultural Heritage Development Corporation (CHDC) focused on black cultural heritage in historic revitalization, land use planning and placemaking. ULLI’s primary focus begins with the revitalization of historic Indiana Avenue and continues its work with the preservation of historic Fox Lake, one of only two Black Lake resorts in the country. For more information, please visit

Tracey Royal
Tracey Royal Communications
(917) 309-0440

Lockefield Gardens and Canal, 2000. Source: Indiana Historical Society

Lockefield Gardens and Canal, 2000. Source: Indiana Historical Society



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SOURCE Urban Legacy Lands Initiative

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