Gary’s Sheraton could come down by November
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org September 4, 2013 7:42PM
The former Sheraton Hotel in Gary. | Carole Carlson/Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2013 12:50PM
GARY — After languishing for decades as the city’s signature symbol of urban blight, the Sheraton Hotel could be demolished as soon as November.
On Wednesday, the Redevelopment Commission got the wrecking ball rolling, voting to advertise for demolition bids that will be opened Oct. 16.
Joseph Van Dyk, director of the Redevelopment Department estimated the demolition cost at about $2.5 million. Funding is coming from a variety of sources — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the city’s Community Development Department and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, which authorized a $200,000 grant toward the demolition.
“This is the first official step to take it down,” Van Dyk said at Wednesday’s meeting. The commission quickly approved the request to advertise the bids with no discussion.
Once demolished, the city plans to build a park at the site at 461 Broadway, just south of City Hall.
The 300-room, 14-story hotel opened as a Holiday Inn in 1971 and closed four years later.
With $1 million of federal money, it reopened in 1979 as the Sheraton Hotel. It closed for the last time in 1985. Since then, several mayors announced plans for its revival but nothing ever materialized.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson pledged to tear down the hotel during her campaign. In her first week in office, she stood on the steps of City Hall and vowed the hotel would come down in 2012 and be replaced by a park. The mayor hoped that contractors or corporate supporters would volunteer to tear the building down, but that didn’t happen.
In the spring of this year, as the city readied demolition plans, more asbestos was discovered in the hotel and the federal sequestration took effect, slowing funding.
In 2006, Illinois appraisers set the Sheraton’s worth as negative $793,000. The report added the building should be razed after asbestos was removed.
Under Mayor Rudy Clay, the New Gary Development Group received a $735,000 loan from the EPA to remove the asbestos in 2007, but paid back only $7,000. Gary asked the EPA to modify the loan agreement, allowing the city to assume the debt of $728,000 and enter into a new no-interest deal. In 2011, hotel ownership reverted back to the city.
Clay envisioned turning the hotel into a senior citizen high-rise sparking a downtown revitalization. The project fizzled, but Clay won the 2007 Democratic primary, beating Freeman-Wilson who finished second.