Gary bank project moving forward
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/302-0949 April 14, 2014 5:04PM
A local development group is purchasing old Gary State Bank, a historic building at 5th and Broadway in downtown Gary, and plans to redevelop the site to lure new businesses. | Post-Tribune File Photo
Updated: May 16, 2014 6:30AM
GARY — Renovation plans for the former Gary State Bank at 504 Broadway moved forward Monday as the Economic Development Commission authorized the issuance of $2.8 million in revenue bonds.
With the commission’s 4-1 vote, the project now moves to Tuesday’s City Council meeting for consideration. It will likely be forwarded to the council’s finance committee and then brought back with a recommendation and full vote of the council, said J. Forest Hayes, director of the city’s Economic Development Corp.
The Redevelopment Commission will take final action on the bonds at a future meeting, if the council approves the bonding, Hayes said.
Gateway Partners LLC plans to renovate the 10-story century-old historic bank building and Centier Bank has agreed to lease space for a full-service banking center in the lobby.
“Downtown was a mecca for commerce and business. We’re here to support Gateway Partners to bring a bank to downtown Gary so we can see revitalization,” said Art Russell, a Centier vice president.
Vance Kenney, managing partner of Gateway Partners, said the bond money will be used to renovate the lobby and build a drive-through window and parking for the bank.
An initial EDC 2-2 vote on April 9 stalled the project, leading to Monday’s special meeting.
The revenue bonds come from a downtown tax increment financing district. Tax money collected in the TIF district stays there to bolster improvements. Kenney said his property at 504 Broadway paid $52,000 into the TIF this year.
Hayes said when the bonds are paid off in eight years, the increased value of the building will replenish the TIF account.
“We truly believe that this is the first step toward the resurgence of downtown,” Hayes said.
Not all EDC commissioners agreed. Although he voted for the issuance of the bonds, Commissioner Charles Prewitt said he is “against all downtown development.” He pointed to past projects like the baseball stadium saying: “None have worked the way they promised.”
Prewitt said he’d prefer to see Gateway Partners put up money, instead of the TIF financing.
Commissioner Marion Williams, a retired Gary educator and businessman, opposed the bond issuance because of a lack of investment by Gateway Partners.
“I have a business across the street and my personal investment is $1.2 million of my own money. I’ve never received $1, yet this person coming here today can get almost $3 million.... It’s been a rip-off and I still think it’s a rip-off. My vote is no.”