The Case For Relocating Gary City Hall
In December 2020, Gary’s new mayor, Jerome Prince, gave a weird State of the City address. The State of the City address isn’t something that I usually care for. However, in his speech — very briefly — he mentioned that he wanted to build a new City Hall. It was the center of a new and improved downtown ‘hub’ for critical government departments — including public safety. I’m not a massive fan of Mayor Prince, but I liked certain aspects of this particular idea.
I also envision a governmental ‘hub’ for the City of Gary. His idea mirrors mine so much; it’s like he peeked in my notes. With that being said, there are certain aspects of his concept where we differ. We differ so much; it might even piss him off — and most other people in Gary for that matter. My family likes to talk about politics. Some members might deny they ‘like it,’ but we indulge each other over drinks and have drunken arguments. It’s fun to me. During one of our little bouts, I floated the idea of moving City Hall to Glen Park — and moving IUN to Miller. I was shut down immediately by a chorus of quotes such as “…hell naw…” or “f**k that” or “sssshitddd…”. I found their reactions intriguing and took a mental note.
If I were to run for mayor of Gary, this would be an idea I would seriously stand on. But, if I can’t convince my family it’s a good idea, it’ll be an uphill battle trying to convince everyone else!
In 2008, first term Hammond, Indiana mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr., re-floated an idea from the previous administration about moving their city hall to a new building on Hohman Avenue. Their hall wasn’t downtown, which McDermott wanted to fix. The nine-story, heavily renovated Bank Calumet (First Midwest Bancorp) building was the coveted spot. The plan was to consolidate all city departments in one place. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough space in the current building to do such a thing, plus the building was old and suffering from millions of dollars in safety, cosmetic, and structural failures. Relocating city hall to Hohman Avenue would have created hundreds of jobs and helped improve the sparse downtown environment.
The plan faced opposition from city council members, especially from Anthony Higgs — who lamented the loss of the hall in his district. Others were concerned with the impact relocating City Hall would have on the Calumet Avenue neighborhood. In 2017, they settled on renovating the current building instead, and the relocation plans died.
Gary’s case is different. Our city hall is not the center of any neighborhood. Neighborhoods adjacent to the site are shadows of their former selves and not positively or negatively affected by the presence of city hall one bit. Gary City Hall sits in the First District of Gary, which includes the Emerson, Aetna, and Miller neighborhoods and Gary Works. The Second District, which is my district, would barely miss it.
There would, in my opinion, be little economic impact to the immediate neighborhoods around Gary City Hall, nor would the financial situation in its district change much as a result of it leaving. There are few significant businesses in operation around city hall. The biggest economic draw in the area is the Railcats stadium. It can stand on its power. I would dare say Gary Works would prefer Gary City Hall not be so close to them. The mirage of corporate-municipal cooperation gave up the ghost decades ago. The city doesn’t benefit from its political center being close to the mill anymore.
Why move to Glen Park? It’s not so much that it’s ‘Glen Park’ more than it’s about where inside of Glen Park.
Firstly, moving Gary City Hall to the northern edge of Glen Park would make it centrally located. I’m not talking about being in the center of the population. It would be geographically centralized. The red circle is a 4.75-mile range. The yellow bullseye in the middle is IUN. This area is where I envision my governmental hub to be. I see city hall exerting its influence with greater force by being physically central to everything.
I am not a fan of the ‘University Park’ plan. Not remotely interested. I mean, if something significant falls through, then so be it. I don’t see it as doable. Personally, considering the state Glen Park is in, I see University Park as a complete waste of resources and time. See, my issue is that these supposedly ‘Harvard’ trained lawyers, GPS alumni shills, and Lake County cronies do not play to Gary’s strengths. On the contrary, they only enhance and prolong Gary’s weaknesses. Perhaps some of the reason why is political. Yet this is another weakness of Gary. The voting block is unreliable and can’t be trusted to vote progressively. I don’t mean progressively as in Bernie Sanders progressive. I’m talking about being actually progressive with their vote for the future progress of the city now in the present.
Glen Park would be, in my opinion, better served with a new government hub than it would be with an educational hub. The city should take over the current IUN complex and repurpose it for municipal function. Gleason Park should return to city ownership and the park should be repurposed and upgraded to match. IU should move IUN to Miller. It should be somewhere east of Lake Street and Rt. 20; and between Rt. 20 and I-90. They should build IUN a brand new, state-of-the-art facility and market it using Miller’s beachfront atmosphere. This would entice future students to enroll there and serve as a way to boost Miller’s local economy in ways that the South Shore/NICTD just cannot. Relocating IUN to Miller means an educational center in a safer part of town, closer to other cities such as Portage, Lake Station and Valpo, be pedestrian friendly, and have plenty of space to expand without worrying about razing neighborhoods or disrupting other parts of Gary.
Okay. I admit it. If all the economic revitalization studies that Gary paid for — that sits on shelves collecting dust right now — suddenly morphed into a human — that’s me. But, seriously, I’m not playing. I don’t believe that relocating Gary City Hall and IUN would rock the boat all that much. Maybe the scope of such an idea is too much for the pessimistic to overcome. To me, it’s a matter of convincing not only the right people — but also enough people. I only need 50.1%. Not a mandate, but we have majority rule in this country. If Gary is to be a city of the future, then it needs to make bold and courageous moves right now.
Excuse my language — but fuck downtown Gary. It’s dead — and the corpse has been lingering around for way too long. I have no loyalty to downtown as it exists — except for preserving one or two buildings. I hear no great cry from the city’s residents for a downtown renaissance. Nobody wants to go there. Not even me — and I LOVE Gary. So why is our center politic still located there? It’s like visiting a graveyard to discuss the future. Tearing down all the old shit is another check on the list of the few things I agree with Mayor Prince.