CROWN POINT | The Board of Directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority on Tuesday approved a $17 million matching grant for the Waterfront Revitalization Initiative in East Chicago.
The grant will help fund the first phase of the work, which includes improvements at Jeorse Park Beach and the East Chicago Marina, street and overpass work and demolition of vacant properties.
“East Chicago has already invested more than $20 million in the North Harbor community and this grant will allow the city to better connect the neighborhood to the lakeshore and set the stage for economic development,” Ed Glover, East Chicago’s appointee to the RDA Board of Directors, said in a prepared statement.
“Between this investment, other city and Indiana Department of Transportation projects, and the new Cline Avenue bridge, East Chicago is set to make a dramatic transformation in just the next few years.”
Several Gary residents at the meeting expressed outrage that jobs on projects such as the Gary airport expansion and Marquette Park development aren’t going to local residents.
“The RDA funded jobs in these communities have provided little or no employment to people living in them,” said Dwight Gardner, president of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Organizations/Jobs Coalition.
Gary resident Carolyn McCrady said people who live in the communities paying towards the RDA aren’t getting jobs on the projects.
“This cannot continue,” she said. McCrady, who said she is also part of the Federation, said they have no problem with the Gary airport development and the possibility of a trauma hospital built in the city but that if present trends continue local residents will not get those jobs.
RDA Executive Director Bill Hanna said the job concerns are a real issue.
“There have been a lot of local residents hired on jobs,” he said. “But it’s an issue that requires a comprehensive solution to. I know our governor’s office is looking at redesigning workforce development statewide. These are issues that are being talked about and we want to participate in and see a solution proffered. At this point it’s hard to gauge whether or not we can really change that.”
As far as the grant for East Chicago, Hanna said there are a lot of positives and that it helps alleviate crime by getting rid of vacant buildings. It also improves the connections for the North Harbor neighborhood to the shoreline.
“This will enhance the quality of life,” said East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland.
The RDA also approved a $200,000 Challenge Grant for the town of Kouts. Combined with $445,000 in local funding, the grant will be used to extend infrastructure to 63 acres of land at Ind. 49 and 680 South. This location links the Dunes Kankakee Trail with the national American Discovery Trail.
Also during the meeting, concerns were raised by Teresa Torres, executive director for disability-rights group Everybody Counts about accessibility at Marquette Park following its redevelopment.
Torres said it hasn’t been done in compliance with the American Disabilities Act.