EDITORIAL: Former hotel offers raze of sunshine

2012-12-26T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Former hotel offers raze of sunshine nwitimes.com
December 26, 2012 12:00 am  • 

It is difficult to forget the image of President Ronald Reagan standing at Brandenburg Gate in West Germany near the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and saying, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." The wall came down, and a new era began.

In Germany, at least, the era of "east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet" came to an end.

Just as the Berlin War stood as a barrier to freedom, the old Sheraton Hotel in Gary stand as a monument to urban decay. The building has been closed for more than 25 years.

Demolition of that hotel is a centerpiece of Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's plan for the city's renewal, and for good reason.

The hollowed-out building stands next door to City Hall. It was long ago stripped of copper wire and other valuable materials. It is just a shell of its former self, and many see it as a metaphor for the city.

It's an obsolete metaphor as much as it is an obsolete building. 

Over the years, a number of redevelopment ideas for that building have been proposed, but none has succeeded. That building is a reminder of not just the city's decline, but also of past broken promises.

That building must come down, just as the statue of Saddam Hussein had to be toppled during the war in Iraq. Gary is in a new era now, and the streetscape near City Hall must reflect that.

It is difficult to promote economic development in the city when there is a large derelict building next door. That, on a large scale, is like the abandoned and derelict businesses and homes in Gary that should be razed to make way for redevelopment.

Clear away the storm clouds and welcome a new day in Gary.

The expected request for the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority to help pay for this demolition is appropriate.

RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna said last week the agency is working with Freeman-Wilson's administration on a plan to raze the building.

The details still need to be worked out, but the plan now is to ask for up to $200,000 from the RDA's Regional Challenge Fund. Gary would have to put up at least a 20 percent match for that grant, but that shouldn't be a problem. The project is estimated at more than $1 million, so federal funds are also being sought.

The Sheraton Hotel once welcomed visitors to the city but now helps to chase them away.

Bring down that eyesore. 

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