The husk of the former Sheraton Hotel is a tall shadow of urban decay looming over the adjacent Gary City Hall. That hotel must come down.
It is difficult to promote economic development under the shadow of failure.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson made demolishing the structure a major component of her revitalization plan for the city, and she was right to do so.
Removing the derelict 14-story hotel building will be a major win for the mayor and a visible symbol that progress is being made.
We have seen past promises that the Sheraton would be razed or developed, but the abandoned building has outlasted those promises. It's time to deliver.
The building began as a Holiday Inn in 1968 and later converted to a Sheraton. It has been vacant since 1985. That's nearly three decades of pressure on City Hall to do something about this building.
It's easy to joke about taking out the first floor and the rest of the problem will solve itself, but this isn't a building that can be imploded in spectacular fashion. It's too close to City Hall, and asbestos and any other materials that shouldn't be airborne must not be released for obvious health reasons.
Nor will that demolition be cheap. Freeman-Wilson said the city has $1 million set aside for that project, and federal dollars will help as well.
Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation are joining forces to help Gary demolish the building and kick-start a new revitalization project on the city's north side.
The $350,000 federal grant for a revolving fund to clear brownfields will kick-start the project in the Aetna, Miller, downtown/Emerson and Ambridge-Horace Mann neighborhoods. The grant will be key to the Sheraton demolition.
The mayor said the city will seek bids for the demolition in August, with completion of the project possible by December or early next year.
The announcement last week of federal funding to revitalize those neighborhoods, including demolition of the Sheraton, is another sign of progress in the city.
Within months, the former Sheraton Hotel — a symbol of urban decay next door to City Hall — should start being razed. That will be a sign the city has entered a new era.