Will a new mayor be able to (finally) revitalize Gary, Indiana?

Note from Storm: This article in the July-August issue of The University of Chicago Magazine speaks optimistically about how new leadership might finally turn around one of the most revitalization-resistant cities in the U.S.: Gary, Indiana. REVITALIZATION readers in the Gary area are invited to comment below on how well things have been going in the ensuing year.

From the article: To a city as economically battered as Gary, the harsh winter of 2014 was a special affront. The thriving steel town that once proclaimed itself “City of the Century” has become one of the most impoverished and economically depressed cities in the country. Jobs have disappeared, more than a third of residents live in poverty, and the population has dwindled to less than half its former size.

Covering 50 square miles, the city is too big for its residents and for efficient snow removal. To clear its 434 miles of streets, Gary deployed a fleet of just four snowplows plus an assortment of pickup trucks fitted with blades. “We have more workers than snowplows,” said Cloteal LaBroi, the city’s public works director. When nearly 20 inches of snow fell, overwelming Gary’s crews, the mayor of nearby Portage, Indiana, sent four more plows—and caught grief for showing neighborliness toward Gary.

Still, the mood in city hall was buoyant that January afternoon. Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary’s mayor since 2012, had brought good news: that morning, officials of the Gary airport had approved a deal with a private company to spend $100 million over 40 years to develop the airport and the surrounding area, which for decades had failed to deliver the economic boost that had been hoped for.

In 2013 the airport lost its only airline—the sixth to have come and gone since 1999—and was hardly used. The agreement included a pledge not just to bring business to the airport but to train and hire Gary residents. “This is a big deal,” said Richard Leverett, JD’10, the mayor’s interim chief of staff.

The mayor and a dozen or so other city officials were gathered in a conference room to hear ideas about reviving retail business in Gary.

See original article & photo credit.

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