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GARY — A community’s comprehensive plan works only if everyone is on board, Gary leaders believe.

That’s why they are embracing community input as a new comprehensive plan is drafted for the city.

Joseph Van Dyk, the city’s planning and redevelopment executive director, described it as a city plan driven by residents with city support.

Thirty-six people from across the community will come together for brainstorming sessions for the next year to 18 months. They’ll fan out to neighborhood meetings at churches and schools and service clubs.

Former residents and former mayors will be included in those tapped for their input.

“It’s a big, big deal,” Van Dyk said. “It will be a very robust year of community engagement.”

The notion is an outgrowth of the successful redevelopment efforts in various neighborhoods throughout the city. He pointed to the Emerson and Miller neighborhoods as examples.

“We have made all sorts of progress,” Van Dyk said.

That is the springboard for this initiative.

“We need to support our local businesses. We have service delivery issues in some areas that need to be addressed. We have a lakefront. We have vacant and abandoned properties with lots of potential. Let’s have some conversations and see what’s possible,” he said.

The inaugural Community Advisory Committee meeting was held Jan. 18. Details about the comprehensive plan were announced at Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s state of the city address Feb. 23.

City leaders want to make sure the plan is what residents want.

“People used to say, ‘I remember when Broadway looked like this.’ It’s time to change our trajectory,” Van Dyk said. “We are talking about possibilities.”