For a few years now, I’ve meant to photograph the portion of the Michigan Road nearest my home. For those of you familiar with northwest Indianapolis, it’s the stretch between about Kessler Boulevard and 62nd St. — and its best days are past. I want to record the gritty suburban decline. I can almost see the photos in my head: tight, monochrome, contrasty, grainy.
These shots don’t fulfill that vision. I was just trying to get to know this subject. I was shooting my Canon EOS 630 and the 35-80mm lens that came with it, using Arista Premium 400 black-and-white film.
This barber shop gave me the idea for this series, as it perfectly represents this corridor. The 421 Barber Shop was so named at a time when Michigan Road was also US 421. That designation was gone from the road before I moved here 20 years ago.
This building has been several different hamburger stands over the 20 years I’ve lived near here. Mr. Dan’s has been the longest lived. You know you’re in a good neighborhood when the one up-front parking spot is reserved for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
This is where the children of Indianapolis are made.
Shortly after I moved to Indianapolis, this liquor store was in the news for its customers drinking in the parking lot and peeing behind the building. Customers sometimes drove to and from it on the residential streets alongside and behind it, presumably under the influence. All of this understandably angered residents. To deter the misbehavior, the city put in some unusually stout speed bumps on the side street and the liquor store put in floodlights and cameras. Fun times. I bought beer in here a couple times — the cashier is behind thick bulletproof glass. Very upscale. Hey, at least they got new signs this year to replace ones with broken letters.
The missing L at Highlander Center, a laundry, is a recent loss.
This homemade sign on the side of a shoe repair business really captures the area’s spirit. I kind of feel bad that I didn’t try them the last time I needed some shoes resoled.
This corridor has seen some growth in the last 10 years or so. Many formerly vacant buildings now contain small businesses, like Poor Man’s Towing. In color, this building is white and bright green — easy to spot. If I had this shot to do over, I would have moved in closer.
Also, this Speedway station was built on this formerly vacant corner about 10 years ago, and then the Family Dollar store next door went in. They are well maintained and fill a need in this middle-class and lower-middle-class neighborhood.
Finally, I was surprised to see this new Pizza Hut going in next to the old one, as this has been nothing but a carry-out store for as long as I’ve lived here. Looks like the new store will be bigger, perhaps allowing more pizzas to be made.
There have been other positive signs. A Starbucks went in on the corner of Kessler and Michigan a few years ago. A Dunkin Donuts went in on the opposite corner a little while later, but it didn’t make it. Then the city installed a pedestrian trail along the west side of Michigan Road. It really eased this excursion, as previously there had been no sidewalks on either side of the street.
I am eager to see whether the new Walmart Neighborhood Market that opened last year on Michigan Road just south of Kessler Blvd. will bring more revitalization to this corridor. What looks like a McDonald’s is being built on a Walmart outlot. It’s not a four-star restaurant, but it’s a step up compared to what you see in these photos. I’m hoping for some sort of bar and grill, a place where I can go for a bourbon or a cheeseburger. My neighborhood has been a bit of a retail and restaurant desert until Walmart came; here’s hoping more is on the way.
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