Crusader Staff Report
Gary purchased eight of 14 vacant school buildings that the Gary Community School Corporation sold to various buyers.
The city acquired the buildings for $1 each and seeks to demolish them and redevelop the properties.
They include the former Wirt-Emerson School of Visual and Performing Arts in Miller, Edison, Nobel, Ivanhoe, Brunswick and property along 15th Avenue.
It’s the latest move by the cash strapped GCSC, which has been burdened with the crumbling properties that were left vacant after schools were closed because of dwindling enrollment and high maintenance costs.
The city already owns the Franklin Elementary building in Glen Park. In 2018, the city paid $10,000 for it during Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s administration.
Many of the school buildings have been vandalized or damaged by fire in recent years. In May 2017, Horace Mann High School’s auditorium was destroyed by a fire set by an arsonist. Three months later, in the city’s Glen Park neighborhood, another suspicious fire was set to the former Lew Wallace High School. In 2019, the Gary Fire Department responded to six school arsons including twice at Horace Mann High School and Ivanhoe Elementary, and once at Lew Wallace and Washington Carver.
However, a trucking firm from Hammond bid $1.15 million for the Edison High School building at 5400 W. 5th Ave.
The Gary Housing Authority bought Ernie Pyle Elementary for $160,000 to create an affordable housing complex. The GHA also offered to purchase Emerson and Horace Mann high schools and Spaulding Elementary. According to the GCSC, the sale of those buildings is pending. Also pending is the sale of Duncan, Riley, Lincoln, and property on East 5th Avenue near County Line Road.
Other buyers of the district’s school buildings include Ollette Washington, of Concrete Beginnings, which purchased the Chase Elementary school building for $35,000. The Deep River Education in Lake Station was sold for $360,000 to Lake County Parks Department and the Little Calumet River Basin.
The commission reportedly plans to use the property to help reduce flooding along Deep River in Hobart and Lake Station. Lake County Parks department reportedly has long-term plans to build an environmental educational structure.
The district sold Carver Elementary for $35,000 to Little Calumet Greenspace LLC, which plans to build several large warehouses for its logistics operations.
District Emergency Manager Paige McNulty said Lew Wallace High School in Glen Park, which has been vacant since 2014, will be demolished with money from state deferred loans. Last week, McNulty said the school had the greatest amount of vandalism and neighborhood complaints.
The Ambridge, Melton, Dunbar-Pulaski, Watson, Norton and Webster buildings remain unsold.