Federally aided program aims to revitalize Gary
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/302-0949 July 22, 2014 7:14PM
Gary officials have targeted this section of Lake Street, north to Lake Michigan, for potential development. The area includes a former charter school along the lakefront the city is marketing as a hotel site. | Carole Carlson~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 24, 2014 6:34AM
GARY — Technical experts from across the country offered input Tuesday on a federal initiative geared toward making Gary a vital city.
The first day of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities symposium focused on economic development, transportation, public health and housing.
The Obama administration named Gary to its Strong Cities program in January, and with it comes an infusion of federal assistance aimed at revitalizing targeted communities. Gary is one of 22 cities in the program.
“We have new ideas and we have local experts. It’s a very substantive plan,” said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson of the symposium, which ends Wednesday at the Genesis Center. The city is focusing on the Horace Mann, Emerson, Aetna and Miller areas, along with University Park in Glen Park.
Freeman-Wilson said developers will be invited to a conference to learn about potential projects on Aug. 7.
Much of the federal push is about finding ways to turn liabilities, such as brownfields, into assets.
“Gary and Northwest Indiana are in the unique position of having this incredible natural value, but a lot of it may not have been capitalized on,” said Michael Taylor, president of an environmental consulting group called Vita Nuova LLC.
Taylor and officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are focusing on projects in the city’s lakefront district, including Miller, Aetna and Glen Ryan neighborhoods. “We believe that in the future they should act in unison, and what benefits one, will benefit all,” he said.
An example of such a project would be turning a brownfield into a park. Taylor said a specific project would be announced in September.
Meanwhile, Freeman-Wilson said the city plans to sell prime lakefront land on Lake Street as part of the effort. City officials are marketing the site for a hotel. “We’ll be sending the RFPs (request for proposals) out soon,” she said.
The site was previously used by the Charter School of the Dunes before it opened its new school last year on U.S. 20.
Wednesday’s program includes sessions on improving the quality of life, sustainable development and a wrapup scheduled to begin at 3:20 p.m.