Two years after its membership held a biennial meeting in Gary and at Indiana University Northwest, the Planning and the Black Community Division (PBCD) of the American Planning Association has released its technical assistance report for the City of Gary. The 92-page document calls for the city to utilize the Broadway corridor that connects Gary’s Downtown and Midtown districts as the focal point of a “context-sensitive design” (CSD) development initiative that enhances the corridor’s appearance while increasing residents’ access and ease of use and maintaining the area’s historical and cultural assets.
“Despite the signs of physical entropy and deterioration, Broadway still has an amalgamation of distinct treasures that can be leveraged to project an image as a gathering place for the community as well as a cultural and economic hub,” states the report’s executive summary. “By building on the competitive advantages of Broadway -- centrality; ease of access; existing services and institutions; and the cultural heritage of Midtown -- the corridor can be restored as a unique destination.”
As part of the PBCD’s biennial meeting in 2007, which was co-hosted by the IU Northwest Department of Minority Studies, the City of Gary, and the Gary/East Chicago/Hammond (GECH) Empowerment Zone, the group hosted a technical assistance workshop in which local citizens and other stakeholders came together to discuss their vision for the future of Broadway and Midtown. The PBCD was asked to produce a visioning report for enhancing a one-mile span of the Broadway corridor and addressing future growth there. In response to the wishes and concerns of local leaders, PBCD structured the technical assistance workshop and the recommendations in its report on using equitable development and smart growth strategies for enhancing the Broadway corridor. The report was presented to local officials earlier this summer.
Ben Clement, a Gary native and the Economic Development and Marketing Administrator for the GECH Empowerment Zone, emphasized that the PBCD report is not a prescription for a quick fix, but instead is an important element in what must necessarily be a strategic, long-term plan for Broadway’s revitalization.
“The downward spiral of Gary, Ind., like many other urban centers around the country, did not start overnight, so neither should an economic resurgence be expected immediately,” Clement said. “The revitalization of Gary will be a steady, deliberate, persistent process, and that effort begins with intelligent strategic planning. The work done by PBCD to formulate a plan to resurrect downtown and the historic midtown districts is a crucial building block for long-term redevelopment.”
The PBCD report reflects and addresses Gary citizens’ expectation that any revitalization initiative should achieve multiple sustainability goals. In addition to urban management, economic prosperity, environmental protection, and resource efficiency, citizens made clear during the 2007 workshops that they also want to protect cultural heritage and cherished institutions, encourage meaningful participation of all citizens, and foster community parity.
IU Northwest Associate Professor of Minority Studies Earl R. Jones, Ph.D., who is conducting extensive, ongoing research into the historic Gary Midtown district, expressed encouragement about the results of the PBCD report.
“One of the important aspects of the PBCD technical assistance report is the focus on youth and their involvement in the planning process,” Jones said. “Youth are applying their knowledge in math, science and business towards improving the community. This is clearly seen in the establishment of Gary’s Youth Empowerment Zone.”
Jones said that this focus on the contributions of youth is significant, and that it will help to encourage the “inclusive growth” that represents a guiding principle of President Barack Obama’s Urban Policy program.
In crafting its technical assistance report for the City of Gary and its partners, the PBCD assembled a broad team of practitioners with expertise in equitable development, smart growth, context sensitive design, place-making, urban design/architecture, and vacant property reclamation.
“Completion of the technical assistance report is a landmark event,” said Carlton Eley of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who assisted the PBCD by coordinating the technical assistance effort. “It represents the first time a majority African-American consulting team, consisting of planners, architects, community developers, and environmentalists, has assisted a major U.S. city to frame a vision for its future.”
Since 1980, PBCD has pursued its mission of providing a forum for discussion, research and action by African-American planners, citizens and students. The Division will celebrate its 30th Anniversary with a conference in New Orleans in April 2010.
For additional information on this project, or to obtain a copy of the Gary/Broadway technical assistance report, please contact Carlton Eley at (202) 566-2841 or firstname.lastname@example.org. An electronic version of the report is available at http://www.planning.org/divisions/blackcommunity/pdf/garyindinana.pdf