RDA may help with Gary Sheraton demolition

2012-12-18T17:00:00Z 2012-12-18T17:07:57Z RDA may help with Gary Sheraton demolitionBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

Plans and financing for demolishing the derelict Sheraton hotel in downtown Gary are firming up and city officials are now hopeful it can be done in the first six months of next year.

"It is a real eyesore first and foremost," said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson on Tuesday. "And it's an eyesore in one of the most important gateways in our community."

On Tuesday, Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority CEO Bill Hanna said his agency expects to soon receive a request for partial funding of the demolition.

The RDA has been working closely with the Freeman-Wilson administration on plans for bringing down the 300-room hotel, which has been closed for more than 25 years, Hanna said.

Demolition of the hotel would be a regionally significant project and would open up the possibility of redeveloping downtown Gary in new ways, Hanna said. He spoke after Tuesday's RDA meeting at the Purdue Technology Center of Northwest Indiana.

The RDA request the city is developing will ask for up to $200,000 from the RDA's recently established Regional Challenge Fund, Hanna said. Under RDA rules for the fund, Gary would have to put up an amount equal to at least 20 percent of the grant.

The total costs for the demolition will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.2 million to $1.3 million, Freeman Wilson said.

In addition to any RDA funds it may secure, the city of Gary will use funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a brownfields fund established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Freeman Wilson said.

Those funds will easily make up the RDA's required local match requirement, so no local taxpayer money will have to be used, Freeman-Wilson said. The space created by the demolition will be converted to some kind of green space such a park, she said.

During the early years after the Sheraton's closure there was much talk of re-opening it, but that never happened.

In November the RDA approved its first Regional Challenge Fund grant ever, awarding $160,000 to the Town of Pines for planning for a project to better connect its parks and the lakefront. Porter County is putting $40,000 in economic development money into that planning project.

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