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GARY | It's been an eventful week for the Gary State Bank building renovation project.

First, the demolition of adjacent buildings was delayed because of the discovery of asbestos. Then Centier Bank made if official that it is moving its Gary branch into the former Fagen Pharmacy space in the building with plans to open by June 2015.

"It's a reality," Centier Bank President and CEO Michael Schrage said. "We're excited about what the mayor and her team has put together to kind of restart the birth of the downtown and to be a part of that.

"It's really a key step to the renaissance of Gary. It won't be overnight, but certainly our future generations will benefit from what the city will become in 10,15 or 25 years."

Centier will be moving its Gary branch at 1326 Broadway to what will be a full-service facility with two video drive through lanes and a drive through ATM lane. A 50-car parking lot will service the bank and building.

"It gives them a nice presence on Broadway and it helps us because we've already done the interior demolition of that space so it's ready for build out," said Vance Kenney, managing partner of Hobart-based Gateway Partners LLC, which purchased the 10-story Gary State Bank building at 5th Avenue and Broadway.

J. Forest Hays, Gary's director of commerce and economic development, said the city is grateful for the partnership with Centier Bank.

"We applaud the decision of Mr. Schrage to have his bank participate in the redevelopment of downtown Gary," he said.

Something the city would like to see vacated from downtown Gary is asbestos. The health-hazard material previously delayed the Sheraton Hotel demolition and showed up during demolition of one the buildings where Centier Bank's drive through lanes and parking lot will be located.

Kenney said the demolition contractor noticed material that looked like asbestos earlier in the week while tearing down the facade of the building. Kenney said contractors previously had removed asbestos from the property and were given an approval by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to proceed.

The new discovery of asbestos came from what was thought to be corrugated metal running across the front of the building.

"It was asbestos," Kenney said. "It wasn't metal. That's why it was never discovered in the initial inspection in the first place."

Kenney said following an inspection, the removal of bricks that fell on the asbestos and remainder of corrugated material is underway.

"IDEM indicated to us once all asbestos is removed, the inspector from IDEM will inspect the property and then if everything meets their satisfaction they'll give us the go-ahead to reignite the demolition," Kenney said.

Kenney said contractors are working expeditiously to get the work done.

"They know time is off the essence," he said. "I think it's a matter of days." 

Hayes said Gateway Partners has contracted licensed asbestos consultants and abatement contractors who are following a plan to remove and dispose of the asbestos in accordance with standards set by IDEM and the city.

"The demolition phase is still on track and the overall project is ahead of schedule," he said.

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Lake County reporter

Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.