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Artist rendition of court yard in the City Church Ruins Garden Park

For City Methodist Church, the time is now

Contributed By:The 411 News

City planners see it as an events center and tourist attraction

With funds already spent to begin the repurposing of the former City Methodist Church in downtown Gary, time is of the essence in getting the job done. That was the message from Robin Whitehurst of Bailey Edward, the architect and engineering firm hired by the city of Gary’s Redevelopment Commission to assess what could be saved of the nearly 100-year-old structure and to turn it into an events center and tourist attraction.

The commission’s vision, the City Church Ruins Garden Park was one of the winning selections in the 2017 Knight Cities Challenge, earning a $163,333 grant to help develop the project.

The city’s idea is to reuse the former church and historic landmark, to demolish some parts and retain some of its gothic structures to create an open-air gathering space. City planners envision it as a place for community meetings, religious services, performances, concerts, movies and weddings. The city’s models are the numerous ruins sites around the globe and to have it become one of the largest ruins parks in the country.

Time has not been kind to the church that closed in 1975, nearly 50 years ago. The church opened its doors in 1926. Only the bare bones of its administration building, theater, fellowship hall with a gym, and church sanctuary remain, following years of damage from fires, weather, and vandals.

Whitehurst outlined a design that makes the church tower and sanctuary the main components in the ruins park. Architectural lighting will emphasize the ruins and support special events in the sanctuary.

The fellowship hall, next to the sanctuary, will be used for a park, and landscaped with native grasses and trees. One wall of the hall will be retained to form the back panel for a courtyard garden.

Bailey Edward’s design showed several uses for reusing the limestone masonry from demolished structures. Those stones will be used to build a perimeter wall along the alley between Washington and Broadway, to create differently-sized spaces in the park, and in the creation of walking paths.

Whitehurst said stabilizing the walls of the sanctuary and the tower should be the first step to help realize access to the sanctuary in the short term, even before all demolitions are complete and all amenities are in place. Proof of the project’s worth will help in future funding down the road, he told the commission.

March 22 the city will host a workshop to provide the public with more information on the ruins garden concept. The workshop will solicit concept and design ideas from workshop participants; inform residents about the church’s structural condition and about the Gary Redevelopment Commission’s strategy for subsequent funding and phasing.



One wall of the fellowship hall will be retained to form the back panel for a courtyard garden.



Architectural lighting will emphasize the ruins and support special events in the sanctuary.

Story Posted:03/03/2018

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