Maintaining and protecting a historic property is not always an easy task. There are many reasons why some of the properties in Gary are vacant or are in poor condition. However, with every existing issue lies an opportunity for the City to implement programs and plans that have been created. There are also non-existing programs that can be part of Gary’s vision to revitalize the City.

Opportunities

State & Federal Funds

It is a common misconception that restoring or renovating a historic building is more expensive than building a new structure. There are a variety of incentives that are offered on state and federal levels for historic properties. Because the City has a great wealth of historic properties, many of them are eligible for the following preservation incentives:

  • Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana
    • Statewide Revolving Loans
    • Indiana Preservation Grants
    • Historic Preservation Education Grants
    • African-American Heritage Grants
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation
    • Preservation Funds: Matching Grants and Intervention Funds
    • Small Deal Fund
    • Community Investment Fund
  • National Park Service
    • Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program
  • US Congress
    • Preservation Easements Program

Typically, a property needs to be listed on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places to qualify for preservation incentives. Qualifications for National Register listings are based on the following sets of criteria created by the National Park Service:

  • Buildings that are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
  • That are associated with the lives of significant persons in our past; or
  • That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess "high artistic values," or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
  • That have yielded or may be likely to yield information important in history or prehistory.

Gary currently has two historic districts and eight structures listed on the Register. A few examples of buildings in Gary that may be eligible to be listed are:

  • Horace Mann High School
  • Gary Post Office
  • Gary Union Station
  • Marquette Park Recreation Pavilion
  • US Steel Workers Housing District
  • Gary Heat, Light, and Water Company Warehouse East Branch Library
  • Tribe of K Building

Existing Resources

Because Gary is a historically significant city in the state of Indiana, there are many existing resources of Gary’s history that are available to the public:

  • Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana – Lake County Interim Report Calumet Regional Archives, Indiana
  • University Northwest
  • Indiana Historical Society
  • Gary Historical and Cultural Society
  • Images of America Book Series
  • Gary’s First Hundred Years: A Centennial History of Gary Indiana, 1906-2006

Building Reuse Potential

Although some of Gary’s historic and/or vacant properties may not be in good condition, there are still many buildings that are stable and have an excellent potential for reuse. Also, with the potential to use state and federal incentives for historic renovations, the City has numerous ways to save money on redevelopment. Reusing an existing building can often create a positive element to areas needing revitalization because it will promote building diversity within the neighborhood. There are also some inherent environmental benefits behind adaptive reuse. Since many of the existing materials are present in the building, there will be less raw materials being extracted from the earth. There will also be a reduction in pollution caused by transporting the materials. Reusing an existing building will also help preserve open spaces and the natural habitat. If successful, it can act as a catalyst for adaptive reuse of the buildings and infill of new construction.

Constraints

Minimal Landmark Protection

There are three key steps to protecting historic landmarks:

  • Creating and enforcing a preservation ordinance
  • Creating a preservation commission
  • Designating local landmarks

Teardowns

In the past, buildings have been periodically torn down as a result of redevelopment or safety issues. The Redevelopment Department currently has a plan for City-wide demolition listing 3,000 properties with around 50% already demolished. In some instances it is necessary to tear a building down because reuse may no longer be feasible, especially if the building proves to be an economic hardship for the owner. However, some buildings in Gary that are currently vacant have not been properly stabilized causing rapid deterioration. There are many ways the City or an owner can protect buildings from being torn down:

  • Mothball – a process where the temperatures are stabilized while the building is empty
    Structurally stabilize buildings
  • Conduct a structural analysis to determine building stability
  • Reference HLFI Lake County Interim Report ratings to determine level of historic importance
  • Create an updated Historic Resources Survey for the City

Public Education / Outreach

While building owners have numerous preservation and restoration opportunities, they simply may not be aware that such options are available. The City needs to better promote preservation, to educate the public on the opportunities, and to create new incentives for owners to actively maintain their property. A study by the HLFI emphasized that designating local landmarks and districts can improve the quality of neighborhoods and increase property values. Once the public is thoroughly aware of the positive outcome of historic preservation and neighborhood conservation, the City will be one step closer to revitalizing its important historic and cultural resources.

Historic Preservation and associated incentives are tools that should be considered for the redevelopment and revitalization of the City of Gary.