Light Cafe

The Light Cafe is a public cafe, run by the students of the J. Everett Light (JEL) Center!

When you eat at the Light Cafe, you are directly supporting the Culinary Arts program at North Central High School – J.Everett Light Center. Here students learn Advanced Culinary Techniques, Protein Fabrication, Artisanal Breads, Regional Desserts, Global Cuisine, Restaurant/Hotel Management, and Entrepreneurship.

The JEL Light Cafe is located at 1901 E. 86th Street, on the east side of JEL (adjoining North Central High School). As you pull into the JEL campus, go around the parking lot and follow signs towards the back of JEL. You will see designated parking signs for the Light Cafe.

The Light Cafe is open to the public during the school year on Wednesdays and Thursdays of each week.  The hours are 7:30 AM – 1:00 PM with breakfast and lunch menus available for dining in or carry out. Menus change regularly – see the Light Cafe website for the latest menu.


Photo credit: Light Cafe website

Community Districting Initiatives Around Us

Indy’s Cultural Districts and Commercial Corridors are getting a lot of attention these days – and increasing promotion and investment from the city. To our north, communities are heavily investing in place-making, such as the Carmel Arts & Design District.

There are six well branded “Cultural Districts” in Indy. The Indianapolis Cultural Development Commission has successfully labeled, branded, and marketed each area. Several emerging residential and commercial districts are gaining a lot of attention, too (and investment). Indy will continue to promote and expand Cultural Districts and small business corridors, such as Irvington, 49th and Penn, MidTown and Holy Cross to name just a few.

Did you know that Indy’s place-based initiatives are largely community led?

As the Nora Alliance explores where Nora fits in, valuable insight is gleaned by looking at what others have done – and they’re not just downtown either. Most have completed detailed community studies, developed their local vision, and created action plans (sometimes with the assistance with community advocacy groups like LISC). Many have successfully advocated development and improvement plans, some have created TIF districts, sponsored visual branding and community events, promoted local merchants, and more.

Here are links to many of the local business/merchants associations, community development corporations, community organizations, and informal associations that are making a huge impact on their unique areas of the city:


Indy’s Community Districts: Where Does Nora Fit?

Strong place-making initiatives are thriving all around the city that serve to define cultural, residential and commercial “districts.”

Districting efforts are largely locally led initiatives to promote communities, and their efforts drive future planning and investment. Indianapolis’ Strategic Plan 2014 and current Plan 2020 initiatives are aggressively pursuing strategies to promote and invest in well defined community districts.

The Nora Alliance seeks your input to determine where Nora fits in these city-wide strategies.

Indy’s total population has declined for people over 35 and under 19 (City of Indianapolis: Strategic Plan 2014). This key finding demonstrates that Indy is seeing families with school-aged children choosing to move elsewhere, mainly the counties surrounding Marion County. They move someplace they perceive to provide better schools and a safer environment, even if such perceptions are not always real.

Nora offers an active community defined by family-friendly neighborhoods, choice shops, fabulous restaurants, and superior public schools. As such, Nora can play a key role in helping realize the city’s strategic plan.


We know people are attracted to vibrant neighborhoods, and will choose to invest time and money in an appealing neighborhood knowing they will benefit from this investment. By coordinating city services and investments, Indy’s unique neighborhoods will be prime locations for attracting new residents and increasing the property and income tax base. – CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS: Strategic Plan 2014

Guiding Principle: Invest in strong neighborhoods

This is one of the seven guiding principles defined by the Indy Strategic Plan 2014. “Strong neighborhoods will retain and then attract residents, resulting in growth. To do this, the City must do a better job of coordinating city services and departments and better leveraging city funds and resources.”

Indy to Promote Vibrant Neighborhoods

Indy’s 2014 Strategic Plan Goal 7:


Ultimately, there is no stronger vote of acknowledgment of a community’s success than to have residents living in its borders. In the months ahead, city officials, along with key community and neighborhood representatives will launch an initiative to bring attention to the opportunities of living in Indy. This initiative will tackle a myriad of issues and focus on several key opportunities.

Key Action: Create a powerful narrative for living in Indy

Why is this important?

Residents have choices in Central Indiana. Indy needs to be able to showcase its strong amenities and desirable neighborhoods to attract those residents to become a part of the social, economic and community fabric of the city. While clear narratives exist for working or visiting Indy, a comprehensive narrative for living here has not been created in recent history.

Key Action: Address the information deficit

Why is this important?

When a potential resident comes to Central Indiana, there is not always clear information available about Indy’s options for residential living. This is partly because of scale and size – Indy is nearly 400 square miles in geographic area. But it is also partly due to the lack of a coordinated effort to transmit information to relocation specialists, human resource departments and real estate agents. Both need to be addressed.

Key Action: Create access to art, nature and beauty every day for everybody

Why is this important?

While this strategic plan document highlights many of the “nuts and bolts” of cities, there are emotional and mental connections that exist and need constant nourishment and enhancement. To this end, Indy must strive to be a place that offers a value proposition of art, nature and beauty every day for everybody.

Source: CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS: Strategic Plan 2014

Indy to Promote New Cultural Districts

Indy’s 2014 Strategic Plan Goal 6:

Encourage Citizen Engagement and Connection

People want to live in communities where they feel a sense of belonging, connection, and responsibility to their neighborhood’s well-being. Furthermore, people want to live somewhere fun. They want access to unique places and spaces that inspire creativity and camaraderie.

Key Action: Promote new cultural districts

Indy has six uniquely branded Cultural Districts: Broad Ripple Village, The Canal and White River State Park, Fountain Square, Indiana Avenue, Mass Ave and the Wholesale District. The Indianapolis Cultural Development Commission has successfully labeled, branded, and marketed each area. Indy will continue to promote and expand Cultural Districts and small business corridors, such as Irvington, 49th and Penn, and Holy Cross to name just a few.

Why is this important?

Providing unique cultural and living options for people looking to move into Indy is critical. Indy’s cultural districts offer different amenities and diverse opportunities to match the wants and needs of Indy residents. Local cultural districts and business corridors are attractive areas to target city funding to continue to grow and invest the districts. (emphasis added)

When will this occur?

This is one of Indy’s ongoing initiatives for citywide economic development.

How will this be accomplished?

Indy will continue to invest in and support the development of cultural districts and small business corridors. These areas have already proved to be successful in attracting local businesses and residents, and we should continue to invest in them. Additionally, as new areas in Indy are developed, it should be a consideration to create, brand, and promote a new cultural district. It is anticipated that a new cultural district around the City Market area will be unveiled

in Spring 2014. Additionally, gateway and street improvements will assist in identifying the Lafayette Square area as Indy’s “International Marketplace.”

Source: CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS: Strategic Plan 2014

Daubenspeck Community Nature Park

Daubenspeck Community Nature Park is a rare, green-space haven of approximately 22 acres at 8900 Ditch Road in Nora. The park is approximately 22 acres and consists of a 14-acre tall -grass prairie, 1 acre of emergent wetlands, 7 acres of forested riparian habitat.

You’ll be welcomed by mowed grass trails, benches to rest, peaceful woods, open prairie, bridges and boardwalks to traverse the creek and wetlands. There is a parking area to leave your car, an observation deck, and more.  The features here are designed to help you get closer to nature and enjoy your visit, without disturbing the habitat.

The park is named after a local a farmer named Peter Daubenspeck who owned a lot of land near West 86th Street and Ditch Road in Indianapolis.  While he sold parts of his farm which became neighborhoods like North Willow Farms, Mr. Daubenspeck decided to set aside the plot at 8900 Ditch for the benefit of the public, and gave it to the schools.

Since the student enrollment in the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township had been relatively stable since the mid 1990’s, and the 15 acre field was too small to build a new school, the MSDWT considered selling the land for development.  But the taxpayers of Washington Township cried out to save the land as one of the very rare remaining green spaces left in that township.

In 2005, the MSDWT School Board decided not to sell the land, and the neighborhoods and community formed an IRS 501-c-3 charitable non-profit
organization to manage it as a nature park. The organization maintains a rich website with tons of great information about the park and natural features, as well as transparency in its organizational documents.

It’s free and open to the public year round, dawn to dusk.

DCNP Inc. is a charitable, non-profit
(IRS 501-C-3) funded by individual donations,
corporate support, and grants.  Donations are

Photo credit: Daubpark website

Al Wood Place

This humble micro park in the heart of Nora is a perfect spot to take a quick break. Al Wood Place is located on 86th Street just across from the fire department. It is the namesake of Mr. Al Wood, Nora Northside Community Council (NCC) director emeritus, and the everyday superhero who fought to have the unsightly and hazardous “Nora Branch open ditch” piped and covered. Since the park’s creation, NCC Board members have planted flower beds and trees and now, as a covenant of membership, patrol it monthly to keep it litter-free. Next door neighbor CVS Drugs acts as a partner with NCC by providing grass maintenance and sprinkling.

Learn more about what Al Wood Place once was – and wasn’t – in this nicely researched article from Historic Indianapolis, The Curious Case of Al Wood Place.

Oliver’s Woods, One of Indy’s Last Pockets of Nature

Marion County was pretty much paved over decades ago, but nestled here and there are still some pockets of the natural life.

The most striking of these is a patch of ground at 8825 River Road that’s owned by the Central Indiana Land Trust.

It’s hemmed in by the six loud, fast lanes of I-465 and the cement jungle that is the Fashion Mall at Keystone. But it’s spectacular and wild. It feels like you’re in the sticks. It’s 53 acres. Trees cover it, wildflowers cover it. The White River meanders through it. Bald eagles pass over it.

The Land Trust calls it Oliver’s Woods for Oliver Daugherty, the man who could have sold it to developers for millions but didn’t because he wanted to preserve the pocket of nature where his family had lived for generations. Again and again, developers knocked on the door of the grand, old (but extremely dilapidated) family manse, and again and again, Daugherty ordered them off the premises. Oliver Daugherty died in 2009 (without heirs) at age 73. He left his property to the Land Trust.

Portions of Oliver’s Woods can be accessed through the southern tip of Town Run Trail Park.

Photo credit: Central Indiana Land Trust