We're inching closer to demolition of the former Sheraton Hotel in Gary. By October, if the project is on schedule, the building will be gone.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said contractors have been working through the winter to remove asbestos inside the building. That material has to be removed before the building is demolished because having those fibers floating through the air would be a major health hazard.
Joseph Van Dyk, director of the city's redevelopment department, said the work will soon shift to removing asbestos on the building's exterior, work that should be done by June.
At that point, the building will be taken apart, floor by floor, from the top down.
It's not a simple matter of using explosives to implode the building. City Hall is too close to the old Sheraton for that to happen.
And that's really the issue with why the Sheraton needs to be razed. Having a derelict building, vacant for two decades, towering over City Hall casts a dark shadow on the city's economic development hopes.
A see-through building, the tallest in the city and highly visible from people zipping past Gary on the Indiana Toll Road, does not send a positive message about the city.
Instead, it stands as an eerie monument to urban blight. Gary has a high concentration of abandoned, derelict buildings, especially in comparison to some of its more prosperous neighbors in the region. Those buildings must be demolished because they can harbor criminals, are dangerous to children who might play inside dilapidated structures and discourage economic development. Who would want to build a new structure next to a building that's falling apart?
Gary is working with state and federal officials to cobble together the funding to demolish buildings. It's going to be a long time before they are all gone.
But razing the Sheraton will be a crowning achievement for the city. It should be seen as momentum toward demolishing other abandoned, derelict buildings. It's not the finish line – far from it – but it's a major milestone.