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Hard Rock Casino donates $3 million to help Gary with downtown blight elimination efforts

A state concept rendering shows potential future development in downtown Gary.
provided by Gary Mayor's Office
A state concept rendering shows potential future development in downtown Gary.

Gary will be able to unlock funding for downtown blight elimination, thanks to a donation from Hard Rock Casino.

The $3 million donation means the city gets another $3 million from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, as part of last year's Senate Bill 434. If Gary can find another $3 million million next year, the RDA will provide another $3 million match.

Mayor Eddie Melton says the city has put together a ranking of the most dangerous structures, with the goal of prioritizing safety. "We see it on YouTube. We see individuals running through abandoned buildings," Melton said during a press conference Tuesday. "And they're not only risking their lives, but this is a danger to those that feel like they can run into abandoned buildings, what they call 'ruin porn.'"

One of the first structures Melton would like to demolish is the parking garage next to the Genesis Convention Center. It's been closed for years due to structural issues. He said the city already owns many of the dangerous properties, but there are others the city would have to acquire.

One building that isn't on the demolition list is the Genesis Center itself. Melton believes it could still be a successful event venue, if the city finds the right partner to operate it.

"It has served as a cornerstone in our community, from basketball games to graduations to weddings and banquets," Melton said. "That's something that we need to bring back."

He said Powers & Sons Construction has begun an assessment on the structure, to try to find a way to reopen it.

Melton said these projects are part of a larger effort to make downtown Gary more inviting. "Our vision is to make downtown a livable, walkable destination for individuals, right adjacent to the train station," Melton explained. "So as individuals are looking to come in from Chicagoland area, they have an opportunity to potentially hopefully go restaurants and entertainment and also have new office space opportunities, as well."

He noted that downtown Gary already has infrastructure and amenities, like the Indiana Dunes National Park.

Blight elimination has been a major challenge in Gary. Recently, the city has partnered with construction companies to tear down blighted homes in the Aetna neighborhood. Melton said the city hopes to get more money for demolition from the second round of the state's READI program.