GARY | There was some concrete evidence Thursday that development in Gary has graduated from the planning stage despite some concern by residents at an earlier meeting Wednesday that more action needs to be seen in their city.
A symbolic groundbreaking was held inside Indiana University Northwest's Savannah Center for a new three-story, 126,300-square-foot building to be constructed at the corner of Broadway and 35th Avenue. The building is seen not only as an educational enhancement to the university, but as a "cornerstone" for redevelopment goals in the city's University Park plan.
Half of the building will house IU Northwest's fine and performing arts programs along with academic and administration space for the College of Arts and Sciences. Thirty percent of the building will be occupied by Ivy Tech science programs and a "one-stop shop" for enrollment and admission programs.
The remainder of the structure expected to open in 2017 will include classrooms and informal study spaces to be shared by both institutions. Key features will be a 500-seat performing arts venue and smaller performance area referred to as a "black box" theater.
Many of the comments at Thursday's ceremony, which featured among others Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie, IUN Chancellor William J. Lowe and Ivy Tech Community College President Thomas J. Snyder, focused on the collaboration between the two educational institutions.
Snyder, however, noted it was actually a "three-way partnership," with the other partner the Gary community.
The planned new facility will span most of a city block. It will not only be a significant construction project, but a signature building for Gary, university officials said. The state appropriated money for the building in 2013.
The need for more concrete action in the Gary area was voiced a day earlier by a small group of Gary residents at The U.S. Steel Yard who were attending the second of a series of meetings to gather community input on developing a comprehensive plan for the Horace Mann, downtown and Emerson sections of the city.
The plan is being developed through a $150,000 grant from the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.
Several of the residents at Wednesday's meeting, such as Patricia Duckworth, said they have seen such grant-funded plans before and said what is needed is a grant to put some of the plans into place.
"How many times are we going to hear the same thing," said Duckworth, a resident of the University Park section of the city. "You know it's frustrating."
Resident Ken Britt spoke about the immediate problems of streets that are torn up with potholes greeting people as soon as they pull out of their driveways. Lack of action on past plans was cited by some of those in attendance for the lack of attendance at this week's meetings.
Arlene Colvin, director of the city's Department of Community Development, acknowledged the problems in these neighborhoods, especially downtown, but said there needs to be a plan in place to address them rather than a piecemeal approach as has been seen in the past.
Representatives of the Arsh Group, Inc., of Merrillville, discussed results of the community survey and encouraged residents to set down their ideas on maps provided at the meeting — including those calling for more maintenance.
A couple of the ideas tossed out at the meeting for the citizens to think about were the possibilities of converting 5th Avenue and 4th Avenue to two-way streets, which could include bicycle lanes, a median and wide sidewalks. Another idea was to redo some through streets to make them dead ends or cul-de-sacs, with the unused land available for pocket parks.
Earlier residents in surveys also spoke to the desire for more landscaping and beautification and more public gathering spots.