Recently, it was announced that Indy’s nearby suburb-city of Lawrence, IN would receive a large Lilly Endowment to blend the arts and the area’s military history in a major economic improvement project that will span the next several years. We look at how this project will help move Lawrence ahead in today’s BAM blog…

The Grant

According to a piece in the IBJ, Lawrence was awarded a $5.85 million Lilly Endowment, Inc. grant. The grant was awarded based on the City of Lawrence’s multi-stage plan to create and improve areas that would involve the arts as well as introduce visitors to the area’s rich military history. Like other local Indianapolis areas before it, Lawrence hopes to revitalize and draw visitors and residents through arts and cultural interest. Areas such as Mass Ave and Fountain Square have seen great success by creating notable and welcoming cultural districts. Lawrence is hoping for a similar success story after the completion of the development.

The Planned Development

The arts area will be located by Otis Ave. and Post Road near historic Fort Benjamin Harrison. The grant will fund capital improvements over the next four years, during which time five planned phases of the development are slated to be completed. After the initial four years, the City of Lawrence will have to secure funding for the remaining two phases of development; however, the Lawrence mayor said with the amount of time they have to find funding he isn’t worried. According to the IBJ: Phase One and Two will begin early 2019 and include upgrades to the existing Theater at the Fort and a 1,600-square-foot theater addition and lobby with interactive play features. Later phases will include: building an amphitheater, relocating an historic Ft. Harrison building and re-purposing it as a visual arts building, installing limestone benches and sculptural bike racks, creating an interactive historical app, creating a sculpture garden, and more.

Lawrence Revitalized

The City of Lawrence has been hard at work in recent years and the new grant will help keep momentum going. The downtown features new office buildings and retail offerings, as well as new home construction, and multifamily properties close to the city’s YMCA. The mix of new construction has been carefully added to fit with the city’s historical buildings that make the area one of Indy’s most unique. According to its website, Ft. Benjamin Harrison was a military base that handled training for various conflicts, including WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and other actions until it closed in the early 1990s. Today, the old officers’ quarters make up some of the area’s most desirable real estate along 56th street and at Lawton Loop.

The military still maintains a presence with property along 59th street as well as the Ft. Ben Commissary. The DFAS (Defense Finance & Accounting Service) building on 56th street is responsible for all military and government pay and employs up to 12,000 workers, making it an important local federal employer. The state of Indiana now owns 1,700 acres that is the Ft. Benjamin Harrison park which includes nature trails, horse stables, paved and rough paths, and fishing. The area also boasts the Fort Golf Course which is a Pete Dye course and draws plenty of visitors to Lawrence on its own! Lawrence hopes that the planned arts and cultural development can mesh the arts with the area’s rich history and create a cultural spot for the city similar to other local arts and culture destinations.