Gary to receive second round of blight elimination funds

ONE OF THE challenges in Gary has been the cost to demolish the abandoned properties in Gary’s blighted areas. Gary is among the communities in Northwest Indiana that will receive funds from a federal program to eliminate abandoned structures.

By David Denson, Gary Crusader

Gary will soon receive its second round of funding to address blighted areas throughout the city.

Recently, it was announced that the city would get $4.4 million from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s Blight Elimination Program’s $5.5 million allocation. Other cities receiving funding are East Chicago ($914,000) and Hammond ($268,000).

In 2014, Gary received $6.6 million to demolish abandoned properties in blighted areas. The city is close to completing the first phase of the project and requested the state apply the leftover money to the second phase of the project.

“We were able to tear down over 300 structures during the first phase of the project at a cost of just over $3 million, and we were asking the state for the funds that were left over,” said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

Freeman-Wilson said the areas that will be targeted in the second phase would include: Horace Mann, Emerson, Froebel, Aetna, Glen Park, and Miller neighborhoods. The area along the Indiana Toll Road and along 4th Avenue will also be targeted.

In the Glen Park area, the Colonial Gardens Development is targeted for demolition. Part of this housing development sits near Ivy Tech Community College and near 35th Avenue, often referred to as University Park because of its proximity to IU Northwest and Ivy Tech Community College.

The City of Gary’s Redevelopment Commission is working with the Gary Housing Authority to demolish the houses. To date, there have been 70 properties demolished in the University Park area.

By removing structures where there are large parcels of land, those areas can be used for redevelopment for projects like University Park.

With the recent allocation of funds, city officials estimate that more that 1,000 structures will be demolished by the end of the project. Early on in the first phase of the Blight Elimination Program, it was projected that nearly 700 structures would be demolished by the time the first phase was completed.

The city continues to deal with the issue of blighted and abandoned structures and is using the program to determine which areas and properties bring most value.

Gary is being credited for aggressively pursuing blight elimination and recent figures indicate the city is responsible for removing more than a third of all the structures in the project.

The Redevelopment Commission has been taking the lead in the efforts to rid the city of blighted areas and the department is considering which areas to concentrate their future efforts.

Neighborhood stabilization is a factor when blighted properties are demolished. Studies indicate that even if there is one house that needs to be torn down, removing it stabilizes the neighborhood.

The Blight Elimination Project received $221.7 million from the federal Hardest Hit Funds allocated to the state. The money was used for families who were in danger of losing their homes because of the economic downturn.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Treasury approved the use of $75 million for blight elimination in the state.


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