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GARY — City officials would like to see some student housing around its colleges like those planned in Hammond.

"Student housing (for Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University Northwest) is high on the radar of our administration," said Deardra G. Campbell, director of Gary's Department of Commerce.

Other Region campuses already have, or plan to open, student housing sites.

Calumet College of St. Joseph last year announced plans to construct two student residence halls next to its Hammond campus. Purdue University Calumet offers housing for its students in Hammond at its University Village complex, as does Purdue University North Central.

Gary is in a middle of a $500,000 planning process for its University Park East neighborhood — an area whose future is considered linked to the community's institutes of higher learning.

The funding for the two-year project was provided by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant.

The Grossbauer Group of Chesterton is one of several entities working with Gary in developing a plan known as a Blueprint for Change. 

The area is bordered by Broadway, East Ridge Road, Interstate 65 and Interstate 80/94 and includes the Ivy Tech Community College's Gary campus as well as the new building under construction to be shared by Indiana University Northwest and Ivy Tech. In Hammond, Purdue University Calumet provides student housing at its University Village complex.

Access to the interstates and the proximity of the colleges were things residents like most about the area, according to a survey administered by the city between June and October in connection with the plan. There were 351 people who responded to the survey, including 185 neighborhood residents and 166 nonresidents. The residents' response rate was estimated to be about 25 percent based on the 2010 Census population of 740 households in the University Park East area.

Campbell said Gary's administration thinks the University Park East neighborhood is a prime area for development. She noted the large number of people coming through the area in connection with the colleges. 

About two-thirds of the nonresidents responding to the survey said they would like to see more sit-down restaurants in the area. More sit-down restaurants were something 35 percent of residents responding to the survey wanted to see as well.

In addition to a survey, more than 110 people attended a community meeting held Oct. 26, according to Suzie Miller, co-project manager with the Grosssbauer Group. At that meeting, residents identified blight removal, beautification, infrastructure improvement and opportunities for youth development as important needs, Miller said.

The city will take steps to address some of the issues as funding becomes available, according to officials. Gary officials hope to knock down some vacant homes this summer on Tennessee Street, across from Ivy Tech through the Hardest Hit Blight Elimination Program. That's contingent upon funding approval by the state, according to Joseph van Dyk, Gary's director of planning and redevelopment.

Working groups were put together after the first community meeting to develop goals and strategies needed, Miller said. Community conversations will be held to allow people who can't dedicate the extensive time needed to participate in the planning, she said.

The working groups are focusing on housing, neighborhood services and amenities and workforce development. The Youth Development and Education working group was one of the four groups that meet in December. The group is looking at funding support and youth programs for the kindergarten through 12th grade group.

Another community meeting is scheduled for February. The final blueprint for change document is due to be delivered to HUD in January 2017. 

The University Park East planning initiative is one of several that have been taking place in areas throughout Gary. Chief of Staff Danya Bennett said Gary officials are working on mapping out how all the different plans will work together and could complete that process as this month.

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Ed has been with The Times since January 2014. He previously covered government affairs for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in Florida. Prior to Scripps, he was with the Chicago Regional Bureau of Copley News Service.