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Public Involvement Network News

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New Report Encourages Equitable Development for Gary, IN

By Carlton Eley [EPA/OPEI/Smart Growth staff] 

Modified from a June 2009 news release from PBCD of APA

On June 29, 2009, The Planning and the Black Community Division (PBCD) of American Planning Association released its technical assistance report, Vision for Broadway (PDF).

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Throughout the 20th Century, the City of Gary became known as the “City of the Century” due to its advanced design, forward-thinking development plan, ethnic diversity, and miraculous growth.  However, forty years of urban disinvestment and flight left hundreds of abandoned buildings and devastated the city’s downtown.   

Despite the economic and social challenges, Gary is mounting a comeback, and the city is receiving support from the PBCD.  In 2007, PBCD held its biennial conference in Gary, and conducted a technical assistance workshop as a service to the community.  PBCD then  assembled a technical assistance team that worked with stakeholders in the City of Gary and offered options for arterial enhancements along a one-mile span of the city’s Broadway corridor.  The project identified strategies -- including equitable development, smart growth, context sensitive design, and heritage preservation --  that local officials could consider to facilitate development along the urban corridor while protecting the cultural heritage and cherished institutions that could be leveraged to create a "place-making dividend" for the city. 

The assistance educated participants about sustainable practices, presented development scenarios for the corridor, and shared techniques for equitable development that can be applied to ensure Gary’s citizens have access to safe and healthy environments in which to live, work, and play.  Since the conclusion of the technical assistance workshop, PBCD has focused on completing a technical assistance report, and the product was submitted to local officials on June 30, 2009. 

Since the conclusion of the technical assistance workshop, PBCD has focused on completing a technical assistance report for the City of Gary; the Gary/East Chicago/Hammond (GECH) Empowerment Zone; and the Indiana University Northwest, Historic Midtown Project of the Department of Minority Studies (IUN).  The report was submitted to local officials on June 30, 2009. 

PBCD was asked to produce a visioning report for enhancing a one-mile span of the Broadway corridor and addressing future growth along the arterial.  Citizens in Gary welcome the opportunities that growth will offer, and they have the foresight to know that changes to the landscape from development do not occur in swift, sweeping movements. 

Local stakeholders have awaited the release of the report because they entered the process seeking to explore alternative models for economic and community development.  Concerned that prolonged disinvestment and neglect may prompt hasty decision making, the community aspired to demonstrate the merits of urban redevelopment while meeting the needs of underserved communities and vulnerable populations through policies, programs, and projects.  In response to local leaders, PBCD structured the technical assistance workshop and the recommendations of the report on using equitable development and smart growth strategies for enhancing the Broadway corridor. 

Ben Clement, Economic Development and Marketing Administrator of the GECH Empowerment Zone, is a Gary native.  He states “the downward spiral of Gary, Indiana, like many other urban centers around the country, did not start overnight, so neither should an economic resurgence be expected immediately.  The revitalization of Gary will be a steady, deliberate, persistent process and that effort begins with intelligent strategic planning.  The work done by PBCD to formulate a plan to resurrect downtown and the historic midtown districts is a crucial building block for long-term redevelopment.”

To be clear, Gary’s citizens want future development to accomplish multiple sustainability goals.  In addition to urban management, economic prosperity, environmental protection, and resource efficiency, citizens want to protect cultural heritage and cherished institutions; encourage meaningful participation of all citizens; and foster community parity.  Despite the signs of physical entropy and deterioration, locals realize Broadway has many distinct cultural treasures that can be leveraged as the city rebounds. 

Earl R. Jones, Associate Professor of African American Studies at Indiana University Northwest (IUN) is encouraged by the visioning report.  He shared “one of the important aspects of the PBCB technical assistance report is the focus on youth, and their involvement in the planning process.  Youth are applying their knowledge, in math, science, and business, towards improving the community.  This is clearly seen in the establishment of Gary’s Youth Empowerment Zone.”  Dr. Jones believes this focus on the contributions of youth is significant, and it will help to encourage the “inclusive growth” that represents a guiding principle of President Obama’s Urban Policy program.   

PBCD assembled a broad team of practitioners for the City of Gary, GECH Empowerment Zone, and IUN’s Historic Midtown Project of the Department of Minority Studies.  The team had expertise in equitable development, smart growth, context sensitive design, place making, urban design/architecture, and vacant property reclamation.  According to Carlton Eley, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who assisted PBCD by coordinating the technical assistance effort, “completion of the technical assistance report is a landmark event because it represents the first time a majority African-American consulting team, consisting of planners; architects; community developers; and environmentalists, has assisted a major U.S. city to frame a vision for its future.”

Recent Happenings:  The first authentic signs of hope are starting to emerge in Gary.  GECH created a Youth Empowerment Zone in 2008.  The city of Gary has recognized the heritage assets of Midtown as integral to the place-making dividend of the community, as acknowledged in the City’s Comprehensive Plan which was approved in February 2009.  Also, the city has been visited by two senior officials in the Obama Administration, Deputy Secretary Ron Sims of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Administrator Lisa P. Jackson of the U.S. EPA. 

Since 1980, PBCD has pursued its mission of providing a forum for discussion, research, and action by African-American planners, citizens, and students.  For additional information on this project or to obtain a printed copy of the technical assistance report, please contact Carlton Eley at 202-566-2841. 

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