This article is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s The New Downtown package, which includes a guide to five hotspots, a few big city problems, and a look at what’s next for the city. For more content on navigating the new downtown, click here.
Those who deride the Cultural Trail as a glorified sidewalk should stroll through Fletcher Place, an old Italian neighborhood bordering Eli Lilly to the east. A mere sidewalk does not attract three sleek apartment buildings, 10 independent eateries and bars, and enough house-hunters to quadruple home values.
Fletcher Place is the Cultural Trail’s biggest success story, and it’s not just about density. The businesses feel more like experimental passion projects than commercial enterprises. Squeezed into colorful historic buildings that have dotted Virginia Avenue for a century, they exude an undeniably Brooklyn-esque charm. Most are foodie hotspots: Bluebeard’s new-Italian cuisine, Milktooth’s hipsterfied brunch, Hotel Tango’s and Repeal’s house-distilled spirits, and Rook’s Southeast Asian street food. Every urban buzzword—carsharing, bikesharing, co-working—has found its way in. Now, with Virginia Avenue almost completely revived, the good news is spreading north, along College Avenue. Developer Herman & Kittle is spending $28 million on Vue, bringing 211 apartments to a blighted industrial area close to Washington Street, and Metazoa Brewing Co., a newcomer to the city’s beer scene, hopes to open in the old Arena Sporting Goods facility. It goes to show that when some of the city’s more creative and trailblazing entrepreneurs are given the space to follow their hearts, good things will happen.
Who’s Moving In
Urban-Pioneer Parents – Millennials may be filling up the new apartment buildings, but those settling in are families with young kids and city-living aspirations, lured by houses with a yard, a neighborhood park, and Fletcher’s reputation for safety and walkability. The weekend ritual has become a trip to General American Donut Company (827 S. East St.), where Mom and Dad can nurse a Stumptown cold brew while kids sit in tiny Eames chairs and watch cartoons projected onto the wall. But the secret is out, and now fixer-uppers are priced as if they’re move-in ready. Patience (and a Realtor with killer negotiation skills) are virtues if you’re hoping to join this hip, engaged crowd.
Just Passing Through
Sleep in. Milktooth (534 Virginia Ave.) always has a wait, but your life goals should include spending more time here, not less. Order a pastry and a pour-over coffee at the counter, hang outside, and enjoy the parade of quirky fashion statements.
Use Pacers Bikeshare near your office to reach Bluebeard (653 Virginia Ave.). There’s a bike station just outside. Order the burger—one of the city’s best—and dreamy macaroni salad, then hoof it back to work to burn the calories.
Pop by European-style Amelia’s (653 Virginia Ave.) and pick up just-baked artisan bread and salted chocolate buckwheat cookies. Swing by Angelo’s (201 S. College Ave.) for bargain top-shelf dry goods, including organic and non-GMO products.
NEW – Cafe Nonna (629 Virginia Ave.), a peppy gelateria that would make the old country proud
CLASSIC – The Italian Street Festival, a pasta-rama block party started in 1934 and held each June
SECRET – The Italian Heritage Society’s summer bocce leagues, open to the public
Drink Your Way Through Fletcher Place
Resistance to Nightlife – Used to the area’s peace and quiet, a group of residents thwarted chef Neal Brown’s plan to open a taqueria with music. Other homeowners worry that rejecting new ideas will open the door to bland national franchises.