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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Frederick Douglass Park to get new family center through city investment

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Mayor Joe Hogsett announced proposed funding for a series of upgrades to city-county facilities, including $20 million that will go toward a new Family Center for Frederick Douglass Park.

Frederick Douglass Park is celebrating its centennial this year, and community members have long targeted the 65-year-old Family Center as a site that needs upgraded.

“For a century now, Frederick Douglass Park been a significant neighborhood asset, one that our stakeholders hold very dear,” Barato Britt, president and CEO of the Edna Martin Christian Center, said in a statement. “Its revitalization ensures that the citizens of Martindale Brightwood and our surrounding communities have a recreational amenity that serves all, while preserving our neighborhood’s rich history and legacy.”

The money will also go toward additional parking and playground improvements.
The investment in Frederick Douglass Park is part of a $190 million project called Circle City Forward. The city-county council will need to approve the funding.

Other initiatives include $11 million for Riverside Park, $30 million for a modernized forensics crime lab, $40 million for a new Youth and Family Services Center to replace the Juvenile Detention Center and $16 million for an upgraded coroner facility.

The initiative will be funded by a property tax increase that will effectively replace the chunk of property taxes that currently pay for a pension relief fund for some police officers and firefighters. The city will pay off its debt for that fund this year, which means homeowners will ultimately see a small decrease on their property tax burden.

The Martindale-Brightwood community will celebrate Frederick Douglass Park’s 100th anniversary this summer. The park was the first in Indianapolis open to African Americans.

Community members gathered in January 2020, along with officials from the city and parks department, to discuss the history of the park and the possibility of building a new Family Center.

“We have to put the love and investment into Frederick Douglass Park,” former Deputy Mayor David Hampton said at the meeting, “because it’s one of our historic parks.”

The estimated cost of a new center at the time ranged from $15 million to $20 million.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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