INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- For decades, the Outlaws motorcycle gang ran roughshod over the east side from their headquarters at 2204 East New York Street.
“You wouldn’t even want to walk past,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett, who green-lighted a federal investigation into the Outlaws during his tenure as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.
“What was here divided the neighborhood,” said neighbor Joey Newsome. “What was here caused fear to people that walked by.”
After an unprecedented federal probe that stretched from Indy to Fort Wayne and led to criminal charges against 49 gang members and associates, the U.S. Marshal took possession of the two-story white clubhouse, festooned with the organization’s colors and logos, and tore it down in 2015 in a demolition paid for with funds raised by the seizure of other Outlaws-related properties.
“We knew if the Outlaws still retained this compound at the end of our investigation a new group of Outlaws would return to the compound and continue to inflict mayhem in this community,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Blackington. “Seven years ago, this property was the site of gang activity that included drug trafficking, extortion, gambling, insurance fraud, money laundering, witness intimidation and repeated and ongoing acts of violence. Seven years ago, this property was the headquarters of a violent gang in Indianapolis.”
Now, the land is the home of Commons Park with a brightly-colored playground, permanent ping pong table and grill, soon to be joined by tables and benches so neighbors can meet while children play.
“It's night and day difference,” Newsome. “What was here is not at all like what is here. And now we have kids coming and playing, it is something that they are looking forward to, this is something that is going to bring us together and that is why we are calling this Commons Park.”
Approaching Commons Park are newly-installed bike lanes with trees that pass the site of the former Indiana Women's Prison just a few blocks to the west.
“I’d love to see a park,” said Woodruff Place neighbor Will Pritchard who is leading talks with city and state officials on how to repurpose the property. “I’d love to see, in some of the historic buildings, I’d love to see some kind of job creation element and then on some of the residential buildings I would love to see affordable senior housing-- so ideally I would like to see a multi-generational facility that provides recreational space and economic development and housing.”
Pritchard said a recent survey of neighbors found 45 percent would like to see community greenspace on the 15-acre site while 17 percent envision a special events venue along with entertainment and other outdoor facilities.
Business, economic development and housing also ranked high on the want list.
The Indiana Department of Correction maintains the property while any attempt to vacate the site would be the result of a lengthy process to first offer the land to other state agencies and then finally deed the location over to the city which could then develop it.