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Genesis Convention Center with new board-up material on its ground floor

Gary and Hard Rock Casino partner on city's downtown revitalization plan

Contributed By: The 411 News

Genesis Convention Center remains in the picture

Gary is on the way to revitalize its downtown area, Mayor Eddie Melton announced, with a substantial donation from Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana.

Hard Rock Casino’s President Matt Schuffert was alongside the mayor at the press conference Tuesday in city hall, pledging $3 million to begin the elimination of blighted structures within Gary’s Metro Transit Development District (TDD).

“Giving back is core to the Hard Rock brand, and Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana has been making good on that mission since we opened our doors in Gary in 2021,” Schuffert said.

Gary’s transit development district is the half-mile square area, anchored by the SouthShore Commuter Rail station in the Gary Metro Transportation Center. Designation as a TDD also makes it eligible to receive state funds for economic development.

The north-south TDD boundaries are between 4th and 9th Avenues, and from Emerson High School on the east to about Horace Mann High School on the west.

Hard Rock’s donation will help Gary meet a $6 million matching grant from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

During Melton’s last year as state senator, in 2023, he authored Indiana SB 434. The bill makes available two grants of $3 million dollars to the City of Gary for blight elimination within its Metro TDD, in 2024 and 2025, if Gary brings $6 million dollars in matching funds.

“We worked with the city of Gary in 2023 to create the transit development district,” said Sherri Ziller, Regional Development Authority President and CEO.

“Great things are happening in our transit development districts and I believe that great things are in store for the future of Gary,” Ziller said, “and I will have another opportunity in 2025 to come up with the next $3 million dollars towards this program.”

Melton said he would also work with the city council to see what is available in the city budget. Gary is looking to gain a total of $12 million dollars for blight elimination.

“One of the first projects we're looking at is the parking garage adjacent to the Genesis Convention Center,” Mayor Melton said. “But let me be clear, right now, we are looking at how we protect and preserve the Genesis Convention Center as an option.”

“The Genesis Convention Center has served as a cornerstone in our community, from basketball games, graduations to weddings and banquets. That's something that we need to bring back,” the mayor said. “We were blessed to have one of our corporate partners, Powers & Sons Construction, going in to start doing an assessment; to figure out what is feasible or what is an option for us to revitalize to bring that back.”

Recently, new board-up material has been applied to the ground floor of the Genesis Center. After it ceased operating in 2020, the building was at the mercy of vandals. Chris Harris, the city’s Director of Redevelopment said no break-ins have occurred since the boardup.

“Most of the properties identified for demolition are city owned. We've done a ranking of the most dangerous structures and we're going to sit down with council members to talk about which are on a high priority list,” Mayor Melton said.

“With this $3 million contribution, we are planting seeds of hope and growth for our downtown,” Mayor Melton said.

Story Posted:03/28/2024

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