By Giavonni Nickson
Gary city officials are planning to spend approximately $1 million to remodel portions of historic City Hall. Some city employees have been assigned to offices in the City Hall annex located at 839 Broadway, the former location of Sears downtown Gary, but city officials are interested in selling off the annex and moving city employees back to City Hall, at 401 Broadway.
The remodel plans are being developed to accommodate the space needed for additional employees. City Hall and the Lake County Superior Courthouse were built using Neoclassical style in 1926. They are both a part of the Gary City Center Historic District, a historic district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After this story was published in the Crusader’s print edition, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson issued this statement. “The remodeling of city hall is an effort to reduce costs, consolidate city service locations and improve service to citizens. Taking 839 Broadway out of service will save on utilities and maintenance. At the same time, it will allow citizens to come to one Rea for the majority of city departments. Additionally, we will enhance city services through one stop shop. The first phase of the remodeling will be the modification of space to accommodate staff from 839 Broadway and to facilitate the one stop shop for citizens.”
The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the U.S. federal government’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance. NRHP was established as part of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 and is overseen by the National Park Service. The National Register recognizes more than 90,000 properties for their significance in American history, architecture, art, archeology, engineering, and culture.
Gary’s City Hall and other historic properties listed in the National Register, or located within a National Register Historic District, may qualify for tax incentives derived from the total value of expenses incurred preserving the property.
The Gary Common Council created a Building Renovation Fund which will have $1,040,385. Funds are sourced from a one-time project to construct a new vehicle maintenance building. The project has since been suspended.
The council voted 6-0 in favor of the employee transfer with the belief that the City Hall remodel project will benefit city government operations while making the City Hall structure a more efficient place to work.
This vote comes on the heels of infrastructure week as Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson pushes for an influx of federal infrastructure dollars to be utilized in the City of Gary.
“Local leaders are stepping up and doing more than ever to address our infrastructure challenges, but our budgets are stretched far too thin for the rebuilding we need to do. That’s why it’s great to hear Congress and the President have heard our call and agreed to come back to the negotiation table for a $2 trillion infrastructure package this year,” said Freeman-Wilson who serves as the president of the National League of Cities (NLC).
NLC is the nation’s largest organization representing cities and their leaders. As president of NLC, Freeman-Wilson is leading the organization to focus on four priority areas: helping city leaders tackle the housing crisis; uplifting legacy cities; creating communities for all generations; and, encouraging civic engagement.
Through these four pillars of work and a national campaign, Freeman-Wilson and NLC will engage city leaders to create a more meaningful bond between communities and their residents. Freeman-Wilson also leads the organization’s advocacy efforts, focused on the critical issues of infrastructure, public safety and economic development.
Freeman-Wilson stated, “As our nation’s infrastructure ages, it becomes less reliable and, in some cases, less safe,” to support her push for the $2 trillion infrastructure package.
Federal infrastructure funding would help Gary close the funding gap and speed up projects that have stalled. Freeman-Wilson has outlined plans for potential funding. “For example, in my city of Gary, IN, we could accelerate our commuter rail project, allowing us to reduce the amount of time required to travel between Gary and Chicago, and create transformative transit-oriented development at train stops. It would also provide a “shot in the arm” for the development of a multimodal site at Buffington Harbor. Every city, town and village has a project like this that will help our infrastructure work better locally and nationally,” said Freeman-Wilson.
Though the National League of Cities heavily focuses on infrastructure during its one week initiative, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson intends to push for federal funding as she wraps up her term in office.
“We have to keep the pressure on until we see a federal investment package that reimagines and funds our infrastructure in partnership with cities, towns and villages,” said Freeman-Wilson.” I encourage every local leader to connect with their members of Congress to ensure they know that we want to work together on an infrastructure package. Together, we can lead the movement to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. Until we see a bill, let’s remind Congress – every week is Infrastructure Week back home.”
Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.