Contractors check out demolition job at Gary’s Sheraton Hotel
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/302-0949 September 17, 2013 5:24PM
Mark Halloway (left), a consultant from SME answers questions inside the old Sheraton Hotel Lobby in Gary, IN on Tuesday September 17, 2013. | Jim Karczewski\For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 19, 2013 7:17PM
GARY — Weeds in the deep end of the rooftop swimming pool rise nearly to its deck. Graffiti is scribbled on the pool’s interior walls. Shattered glass sits on the concrete floor in the pool’s once-grand entryway.
There’s an L-shaped bar on the main floor and a couple of pieces of copper-colored wallpaper still clinging to the wall in the lounge.
Hanging wires, bent metal, and concrete rubble. That’s what’s left inside the Sheraton Hotel, opened in 1971 to symbolize the rustbelt city’s comeback.
On Tuesday, demolition contractors from as far away as Texas and New York glimpsed the gutted remains during a walk-through the city conducted as it prepares to tear the hotel down.
The bids are due Oct. 16 and the Redevelopment Commission could award a contract on Oct. 30. The city hopes demolition can begin in November.
It won’t be soon enough for Chris Harris, who wasn’t even alive when the hotel at 461 Broadway last welcomed guests.
“As a Garyite, I’m ready for it to come down. It’s been abandoned my whole life,” said Harris, 24, who’s a project engineer for Powers & Sons, a Gary contracting firm.
“It’s a symbolic project,” he said as he looked out from the hotel’s second floor across to City Hall.
When the hotel first opened, it was a Holiday Inn. It closed in 1975 and reopened in 1979 as the Sheraton Hotel. It closed for the final time in 1985.
Gary-born Bill Martin, who’s now a job estimator for NCM Demolition and Remediation in Cincinnati, said the project has grabbed national attention among contractors. “It’s a nice job,” he said.
The city estimates the demolition cost at about $1.5 million, but one Chicago contractor said the exterior asbestos remediation would hike up the price, so the city may not find anyone willing to do it for that price.
“We’ll be back for another walk-through in five years,” he said.
The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority authorized a $200,000 grant toward demolition and the city is using federal funding from the Community Development Department and the EPA to cover the cost.
Cedric Kuykendall, the Redevelopment Department’s demolition coordinator, said it’s still unclear how the contractors will opt to tear down the 14-story hotel.
As the contractors walked around the broken glass and rubble, they took photographs, measured openings, and talked quietly to one another.
Kuydendall thinks the winning bidder will likely use a traditional method to demolish the Sheraton. They would probably start on the top floor and work their way down, Kuykendall said.
The hotel’s rooms are already gone, gutted as part of an earlier ill-fated renovation. Dragan Vjestica, president of the Harbor Group Inc. of East Chicago, helped remove asbestos from the hotel in a project supported by then-Mayor Rudy Clay, who envisioned condominiums and senior citizen housing in the hotel.
The project never gained traction and the city was left with a $728,000 bill for the asbestos removal from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant. Now, Vjestica hopes to serve as a consultant for the winning bidder who will have to abate the remaining friable asbestos on the building’s exterior.