There’s an old cliché about Indiana: everyone here is either leaving or coming back home. Some of our coastal friends couldn’t find us on a map here in the flyover, and few of them could describe our culture beyond the Indy 500. Visitors say they’re surprised to find a city so full of life, here in the center of the country. Yet the metropolises everyone recognizes as “desirable” are losing residents by the day; NYC, LA, Chicago, and San Francisco are all experiencing long-term population decreases. Leaving New York is such a common experience that is spawned an entire genre of trend article espousing that big city life is as expensive, difficult, and overwhelming as it is rewarding and fun.
Some of the most vibrant, successful women in Indy are neither leaving nor coming home. They’ve been here for years, and they’re staying as long as they can imagine for our livable, lovable neighborhoods and big city/small town culture. Indy Maven talked to three of Indy’s best about why they settled here—and why they stay.
“Indy was always sunnier, warmer, and friendlier.”
Kristin Kohn, owner of Silver in the City, first came to Indiana for college at Purdue. She imagined her life after school in a big city and headed to Chicago, but found it to be “a bit cold in attitude.” As she visited her college friends here in town, she says, Indy “was always sunnier, warmer, and friendlier.” She found a job and an apartment that fulfilled her downtown living dream, but in a city where she could engage with a community “where folks encourage your big ideas and support local movements.” She opened Silver in the City in 2000 and has been central to the Mass Ave. neighborhood ever since. While she’d love more access to mountains and a less outdated political scene, she’s here to stay.
Attorney Kelly Thompson, who serves as Associate General Counsel and Privacy Officer at The Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, grew up nearby and, beyond her college years in Bloomington, never wanted to leave.
She settled in the city for law school, and tells us she “was so happy to be in a larger city than the town I grew up in. The possibilities seemed endless and I reveled in the comparative anonymity. I was making fun, new friends; getting involved in my church; supporting the arts; starting an exciting career.” But she found limited downtown living and entertainment options near that legal community. Now, however, she feels the city has grown up along with her, from those narrow downtown choices to a metropolis full of dynamic, engaging neighborhoods—any of which you can reach in a drive of 30 minutes or less.
The Sapling School in the heart of Broad Ripple is one good reason for parents of preschoolers to stay in Indianapolis. Its founder, Kelsey Livingston, has kept her roots here since her family moved to town during her teenage years. A dedicated educator, Livingston recognized a need for high-quality Pre-k options for Indy families and, in 2017, opened Sapling with only seven children. In just two years, it’s grown to serve more than 60 local families.
Livingston tells Indy Maven that she’s seen “a shift in the mindset of Midtown families,” who are now choosing city schools where they see their values portrayed, particularly in IPS magnet programs, instead of fleeing to the burbs with their babies. Livingston’s life with both her pre-k students and her own 19-month-old daughter are deeply rooted in our town, where she loves the big-city feel of our restaurant and coffee shop scene tempered by the small city livability and access to parks, farmers markets, and attractions like Winter Lights at Newfields. She tells us she loves that, “by putting down roots here, Indy will be my daughter’s home from birth.”
Our talented, thriving mavens could make their homes anywhere, and any city would be lucky to have them. Here in Indy they’ve found their community, and made that community all the richer just by staying.
Photo provided by Downtown Indy Inc.
Victoria Barrett is a writer and editor in Indianapolis. She has lived in Central Indiana for all but three years of her life, which she spent in southern New Mexico.