Minister Concerned About Redevelopment Displacements

Reverend Frank Mansell

Photo by Linda Karn

(posted Apr 9)

Reverend Frank Mansell of John Knox Presbyterian Church best described Speedway as an anomaly. He used the word several times while speaking to the Old Speedway City Neighborhood Association (OSCNA) to summarize the town's past and future.

Mansell said he was not a sociologist or economist but merely an observer as he watched Speedway change over the last five years. The reason he believes that Speedway is anomaly because the town's identity is tied to the IMS and yet the landlocked town has to carve out a new identity for economic growth to have viable future while facing the struggles of being surrounded by Indianapolis.

He was supportive of the Speedway Redevelopment Commission's plans for the Speed Zone to revitalize the industrial area and create a racing campus. Mansell is from Charlotte, North Carolina and is a big NASCAR fan; however, he said nothing compared to seeing the IMS. He said he still remains awe struck every time he drives by the track.

Although Mansell is the pastor at John Knox, he spoke about issues that were a collective concern of the Speedway Ministerial Association (SMA). The SMA is comprised of Speedway and surrounding area churches.

He said the ministers are concerned about the discussion on the apartments in area two. Displacement of the apartment residents will not solve the problem. People are in need of help. He said that two homeless men asked him for help that day. One had no place to go because the shelter is full.

Mansell asked the audience of about 30 what made them come to Speedway. Marilyn Conner moved here because of the OSCNA Christmas Luminaries that light the old part of Speedway on Christmas Eve. "If I won the lottery, I would not move. I would add onto my house," she said.

David Heaton said "this is the first place I am proud to be from."

"Great neighbors," Dee Adams said. One resident moved to Speedway 60 years ago to work at Allison Transmission and was able to walk to work every day.

Just like the residents that came here 10 to 60 years ago, the Hispanic and African Americans residing in the apartments are here looking for a place to feel safe and welcome. He said poverty is real in the immediate area and the churches are trying to figure out how to outreach to be a better neighbor "by opening our doors and hearts." He listed some of the services that John Knox offers. He expects the free legal service to expand to twice a week because of the overcrowding on Thursday nights. His church also started offering bilingual services. He said St. John's Episcopal Church has literally been re-energized by providing a food pantry to serve the low income families.

The SMA would like to see a community center that would offer programs that brings the community closer.
Ed Frazier said the town council has looked at the idea of a community center.

Mansell said the ministerial association would like to spur a community forum to better embrace the changing socio and economic changes in the town. He noted that displacement of hundreds of apartment residents is not the answer.