Gary’s ‘University Park’ plan draws skeptics
By Christin Nance Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org August 13, 2013 10:52PM
An artist rendering of Broadway, shown in Gary, Ind. Tuesday April 16, 2013, as part of the University Park project. The multi-year project is in Phase I, demolition and site assembly. | provided
Updated: September 15, 2013 6:23AM
GARY — The future is full of possibility for the run-down area of Glen Park now dubbed “University Park” — which includes Indiana University Northwest and Ivy Tech’s Gary campus — but residents expressed skepticism about the ability to get the project up and running due to funding, crime and crumbling infrastructure at a Monday night community forum.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has identified the 7.5 square mile area bordered by the Borman Expressway, Interstate 65, Ridge Road and Grant Street as a primary redevelopment target and piece in Gary’s revitalization.
The Indiana General Assembly has allocated $45 million for a performing arts and academic center, which will be jointly operated by IUN and Ivy Tech, at 35th Avenue and Broadway, and the legislature also commissioned a study on the feasibility of a building a teaching and trauma hospital at IUN.
Freeman-Wilson and Gary planners envision revitalizing the Broadway commercial district with the likes of Starbucks and Chipotle, while stabilizing the aging housing stock, which does have many pockets of vacant lots or abandoned buildings.
Gary Department of Commerce Director J. Forest Hayes said work has already started on putting the plan into action, with the city using federal Housing and Urban Development dollars to demolish 70 structures, which typically attracted crime.
Hayes moderated the discussion at the Gary Christian Center. Nonprofit The Community Builders Inc. has developed an initial plan, but Monday’s forum and other meetings will be used to flesh it out further.
Patti Johnson has owned Heaven Sent Gourmet Cookies at 3745 Broadway for more than two decades, but she was concerned about the future of her business and others.
Hayes said businesses that fit into the plan could be invited to move into a proposed mixed-use development, which includes affordable apartments and businesses.
“Why not help the businesses that are existing there right now?” Johnson said. “I’ve been with my landlord since 1996 and he works with me. I wouldn’t want to move.”
Other residents are worried that the University Park plan could go by the wayside like many previous plans, including a Jackson 5 museum and a land-based casino.
Hayes said he understands residents’ skepticism, but he emphasized that Freeman-Wilson is very committed to the plan.
“Rarely are projects as personally important to me as the University Park plan,” Hayes said. “I attended the Gary Career Center and have fond memories of it. This is an opportunity waiting to be properly leveraged.”