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Jim Wiseman, Marketing Director for Rieth-Riley Construction, organized the demolition effort in the Aetna neighborhood

Gary is betting on revitalizing the Aetna neighborhood

Contributed By: The 411 News

City wants to reclaim its history as a neighborhood of affordable housing

With help from local businesses, Gary began the demolition of 38 blighted residential properties in Gary’s Aetna neighborhood.

At an early morning press conference Monday morning, Gary Mayor Eddie Melton introduced the city’s corporate partners who are taking the first step to help the city rebuild Aetna and reclaim its history as a neighborhood of affordable housing.

Seven construction companies - Rieth-Riley Construction, Hasse Construction, C. Lee Construction, Actin Inc., R&D Construction, Dyer Construction, and Superior Construction; Simmons Landscaping, and the Lake County Highway Department are providing their services, at no cost to the city, to demolish houses that are beyond repair and have been vacant for years.

The first house facing the wrecking crew was at 5609 E. 13th Place, which had been completely surrounded by years of overgrown weeds. The demolitions are expected to take about a week.

Stabilizing the Aetna neighborhood has been in the pipeline of the city’s Department of Redevelopment in previous administrations.

This stabilization initiative is for the people of Aetna, said Lori Latham, 1st District Councilwoman. “Thank you Aetna residents for staying through the toughest of times. Your resilience and your commitment to this community are our inspiration. Your presence and perseverance have been the driving forces behind this and every neighborhood stabilization effort here in Aetna.”

Christopher Harris, Redevelopment director called it “a hidden gem waiting to be redeveloped.”

There is easy access to major interstate highways crossing the city. Aetna is minutes away from the SouthShore Commuter Rail Line, connecting Gary to Chicago on the west and on the east to South Bend. Bus service is provided by Gary Public Transit System

The Miller section of Gary, Aetna’s neighbor, connects it to Gary’s beaches, lakefront and the Dunes State Park.

Its location adds to its appeal, but that’s not the only thing, Harris said. “People want to live in Gary and they want affordable housing. Everybody is not looking for a 2,200 sq.ft. house.”

New homes in Aetna will be even cheaper for developers to build, Harris said, because the infrastructure – roads, streets, and utilities are already there.

By year’s end, Harris expects to have ready a template for developers that will fit with the current neighborhood characteristics. The demolished homes sit on slab foundations with a lot size of 55 feet wide and 120 feet deep, ranging in size from 800-1200 sq.ft.

“I want to tell you why we’re doing this,” said Jim Wiseman, Rieth-Riley Construction Marketing Director.

“When I called these companies, not one of them hesitated; every one of them said ‘let’s do this. Let’s give back to the communities that give to us,’” Wiseman said. “I grew up on these streets. My message is and spread the word – Gary is, was, and always will be the heart and soul of northwest Indiana. When Gary grows, the whole region prospers.”

Harris said Rieth-Riley presented the demolition effort 2 years ago, but no one had the ability to execute it until this administration.

Story Posted:02/28/2024

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