Indianapolis | St. Louis Public Radio

Indianapolis

A lot sits vacant in the once-thriving Martindale-Brightwood neighborhhood on Indianapolis' east side. Residents say city leaders have neglected such neighborhoods in favor of downtown development.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

The Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood on the east side of Indianapolis was once a thriving working-class community supported by manufacturing and a nearby railroad. But in recent decades, the predominantly black neighborhood has suffered from decay. Many of its buildings have plywood over their windows, and vacant lots are filled with trash or scrap metal. Nearly 40 percent of people live in poverty.

Just south of the train tracks lies the city's revitalized downtown, with its soaring office towers and the looming Lucas Oil Stadium, home to the Indianapolis Colts. After the city and surrounding Marion County merged governments in 1970, Republican mayors focused their attention on downtown renewal. But critics of the consolidated government, Unigov, say it benefitted the few at the expense of the many. For them, the contrasting images in Indianapolis hold lessons for St. Louis, which is weighing a similar merger.

<p><strong>Better Together-Style Merger In Indianapolis Created Winners And Losers</strong></p> <p>Backers of the ambitious plan to merge governments in St. Louis and St. Louis County have pointed to the success of Indianapolis which completed its own mer
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Backers of the ambitious plan to merge governments in St. Louis and St. Louis County have pointed to the success of Indianapolis, which completed its own merger 50 years ago. Since then, Indianapolis has been a Midwest success story, with a gleaming downtown, a business boom and steady regional population growth.

But the success of Indiana's capital was made possible by political maneuvers that allowed Republicans to gain the upper hand in Unigov, Indianapolis' version of merged government. Critics say the city's success largely came at the expense of black residents and Democratic voters.