GARY | As workers remove asbestos prior to the demolition of the Ambassador Hotel and Apartments building, the city prepares to remove more than another 100 buildings around the community.
The city's Redevelopment Commission is scheduled to open bids for demolition of 163 buildings at its meeting on Wednesday.
Demolition work has already torn down dozens of structures that were bid out earlier. Asbestos removal work at the Ambassador Hotel and Apartments building started about two weeks ago in advance of the demolition of that structure.
The city received $6.6 million through the state's Hardest Hit Blight Elimination Program in 2014 that was initially expected to allow the city to tear down a minimum of 379 blighted structures with the average allotment coming out to about $15,000 to $20,000 per structure.
Earlier this year, however, Gary Redevelopment Director Joseph Van Dyk estimated the city might be able to stretch those funds and demolish between 600 and 700 structures.
In addition to the demolitions, the city will be performing deconstruction work at about a dozen structures in which there are building features that have been deemed to be worthy of saving.
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The city is using a combination of grant money from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs and a portion of a $400,000 loan from the Regional Development Authority to tear down the Ambassador Hotel and Apartments building at 574 Monroe St.
The Redevelopment Commission earlier approved a contract of $846,000 to remove asbestos from the building and demolish the structure. Engineering services cost another $125,000, which represents the city's local match for the project.
Gary Material Supply LLC was the low bidder for the project. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson last week released a statement saying the city had learned of a dispute between the contractor and Laborer's Local 81.
In the statement, she said "the demolition of the former Ambassador Apartments is a union project and it is our understanding that parties working on the project for the contractor and subcontractors are being paid union wages. We are pleased that 75 percent of the workers on this project are Gary residents."
Union representatives, however, contend that the firm wants to use a related company using nonunion labor to do the asbestos removal work. They also said workers at the site last week were from Illinois and the company is not giving the mayor accurate information.
Union members held what they described as an Area Standards picket at the site last week. Company representatives did not immediately reply to a request for comment.