History, Preservation

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but welcome, Walmart

I’m not sure I’d call myself a full-blown preservationist, but I’m definitely sympathetic to the cause. And I certainly love history. I find it to be a happy circumstance that I live in northwest Indianapolis near the intersection of Michigan Road and Kessler Boulevard, two historic roads. Michigan Road is, of course, the Michigan Road, a 270-mile highway built in the 1830s to link the Ohio River to Lake Michigan. Kessler Boulevard was designed and built in the 1920s by George Kessler, a pioneering city planner.

This area was way out in the sticks until the 1950s, when some of Indianapolis’s early suburbs were built here. Now you’ll find subdivision after subdivision of brick ranch homes on sprawling lots, though these neighborhoods’ glory days are past and the area has started to decline. But the homes are still nice enough – and they’re affordable, which is  why I’m here. I would rather have lived in a charming older home in a walkable neighborhood with a nearby business district. But where such neighborhoods still exist in Indianapolis and have not succumbed to horrifying decay, the houses are in great demand and were out of my financial reach.

It’s okay; I really like my little brick ranch house and have adapted to my quiet suburban lifestyle. But I’ve had one big complaint: major routine shopping is too far away.

I can reach one grocery store in about seven minutes, but it’s small and doesn’t carry everything I need. I can also reach a chain drug store and a dollar store in under five minutes. I use all of these stores for quick shopping trips. But when I need to do the big weekly shopping, I spend at least 30 minutes in the car, round trip.

Imagery and map data c 2013 Google.
Imagery and map data © 2013 Google.

That could soon change. Walmart is building one of its Neighborhood Market grocery stores on the southeast corner of Kessler and Michigan, less than five minutes from my home. It should open this summer.

I’m not crazy about Walmart. I don’t like an awful lot of the company’s practices and so in recent years I’ve generally avoided shopping there. But if this new Neighborhood Market lets me avoid the long shopping trek, holy cow am I ever going to buy my groceries there. Its nearness to my home will make my life appreciably easier. And I hope it sparks some regrowth along this section of the Michigan Road, which has decayed badly in the years I’ve lived here.

The Neighborhood Market is being built on a parcel that has gone largely undeveloped, as you can see on the map snippet. Unfortunately, an old house and barn (below) stand on the parcel. They will be moved to a new location. I don’t know much about this house, but it looks to me as though it dates to the mid-late 1800s. It’s a shame that a house that has stood on the Michigan Road almost as long as it has existed must be displaced.

House along the road
2008 photo

Under normal circumstances, it would really burn me up to lose this old house. But daggone it, I’ve hated the long drives to shopping for going on two decades. Despite my preservationist leanings, I go about my life here, and the prospect of easy shopping really charms me.

Forgive me, my preservationist friends.

Can small-town downtowns and big-box stores peacefully coexist? My view here.