Gary and its partners will continue plans for University Park East, following the completion of the Choice Neighborhood $500,000 two-year planning grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
The effort produced the “Blueprint for Change,” with hopes the plan will be used to guide future investment and development in the University Park East neighborhood, as well as other city neighborhoods. To that end, the city is seeking a master developer and applications will be reviewed at the upcoming redevelopment commission meeting on Feb. 1.
“A request for qualifications for a master developer was issued at the end of December by the redevelopment commission — not just for the University Park East area — for the entire city,” said Bo Kemp, director of the Gary Economic Development Corp. The redevelopment commission will review applications at its Feb. 1 meeting.
The selected developer and any sub-developers are likely to have experience with mixed-use projects including retail, commercial and residential and may also have a specialty in affordable housing or student housing, according to Kemp.
“That is an important component we are looking for in University Park,” said Kemp. “The master developer will work with our blueprint and our team.”
Throughout the two-year grant process, the city worked with co-grantees Legacy Foundation and City of Gary Economic Development Corp. and key partners including Indiana University Northwest, Ivy Tech, Gary Community School Corp., WorkOne Indiana, Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission, Broadway Area Community Development Corp., Gary
Public Transportation, Gary Redevelopment Commission, ARISE Gary and the EJP Consulting Group.
At a recent wrap-up meeting at IVY Tech, Kemp reviewed accomplishments since last summer and previewed work to be done this year.
“HUD was pleased,” said Kemp. “It has been a success at this stage.”
Kemp said the next step for University Park East would be to pursue a $30 million implementation grant. The application for the large grant is usually made available in the summer and applicants expect to hear back by end of the year. However, Kemp acknowledged it is unknown if HUD will offer the grant under the new federal administration.
“We are not waiting for that grant,” Kemp said. “We are already moving forward without it.”
One project on the radar for later this year is the groundbreaking for the new Community HealthNet Health Center at 1500-1535 E. 35th Ave.
Dr. Janet Seabrook, founder and CEO of Community HealthNet thanked Ivy Tech for transferring the land to the city to be used for the clinic.
Kemp said this spring he expects to see new LED street lights installed on Broadway between 25th and 45th avenues and other capital improvements on Broadway including paving, new bus shelters with solar lighting, benches, bike amenities and signage. The Broadway Metro Express service should launch this summer, he said.
Also in the works, a memorandum of understanding between the Gary Community School Corp. and the redevelopment commission to allow for the marketing and selling of vacant school property including Franklin School. A rendering of the area shows future use designated for single- and multi-family homes and a senior/community center.
According to Kemp, those improvements build on a list of accomplishments since June.
Some of those accomplishments include: City Bike Patrol, Indiana University Police Department’s Sweet Treat Ice Cream Truck Initiative, repaving 35th Avenue from Broadway to Martin Luther King Boulevard and Georgia from 39th Avenue to Interstate 80/94, establishment of neighborhood block clubs, expansion of the Housing Repair Program, launch of the City Life Center’s City Kids after school program, 32nd Avenue Flow Diversion Modification Project to improve the neighborhoods sanitary sewage system, cleanup on vacant lots and patched potholes.
Sidewalks, curbs and housing repairs, crime, abandoned houses and vacant lots that attract illegal dumping continue to be a concern for residents, who brought up the issues during question and answer period.
Kemp urged residents to be vigilant about cutting their grass and keeping everything clean, because people are less likely to dump trash in areas where the trash can be seen.
Nancy Coltun Webster is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.
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