The Times of Northwest Indiana
Rusty, padlocked factory gates have come to symbolize Rust Belt communities — and stakeholders in Northwest Indiana agree it's time to swing open those gates and transform the region.
Northwest Indiana's urban core — in particular the cities of Gary, Hammond, East Chicago and Whiting — tell the story of the Rust Belt as well as Detroit, Mich., and Youngstown, Ohio: Years of industrial decline, disinvestment, and dwindling resources have resulted in blighted neighborhoods, crumbling infrastructure, diminishing services, an underemployed and underskilled workforce, and vacant and often contaminated industrial land.
Stakeholders agree that with new regional capacity, strong federal interest in renewing urban communities, and years of solid planning in Northwest Indiana, the time is right to reverse this cycle of decline.
The Metropolitan Planning Council and The Times of Northwest Indiana are collaborating on the Gary and Region Investment Project, or GRIP, a multi-year, regional effort to reinvest in the area’s urban core. After two years of extensive outreach involving hundreds of stakeholders, MPC and The Times have developed a strategic plan to:
- Prioritize and advance high-impact, job-rich development opportunities;
- Solicit input on key issues from Gary and Northwest Indiana stakeholders and promote lessons and successes with those constituents and regional, state and federal audiences;
- Align current and potential funding resources to support a few high-impact projects and existing strategic assets, such as rail corridors, the Lake Michigan lakefront, and Gary/Chicago International Airport;
- Establish effective partnerships for implementation that include reputable developers, relevant levels of government, experienced investors, and other organizations in the region;
- Foster interdepartmental and interjurisdictional collaboration that will aid in development, project implementation, and capacity building; and,
- Assist with long-term implementation by helping to secure future funding, advance state and regional policy changes, and develop measurable success indicators.
Later this fall, MPC and The Times will host a launch event, "GRIP the Future," which will bring together some 150 invited regional stakeholders, national experts, and federal representatives to develop a strategic vision for investing in the area’s economic recovery. They will focus on emerging models and best practices to stablizing and reinvesting in struggling industrialized urban areas, and provide feedback on criteria that will be used to select a few projects to begin to transform Northwest Indiana.
After working with partners to narrow down the list of priority projects, the GRIP team will engage Urban Land Institute-Chicago to help identify next steps to advance those projects. Then MPC and The Times will partner with local stakeholders to carry out that action plan.
Success will require a new framework for investment. Rather than spreading scarce resources around, GRIP's goal is to provide a laser-like focus on reinvesting in specific areas that will create jobs, make the region more attractive to businesses, improve mobility — and generate a ripple effect that strengthens surrounding neighborhoods and communities.
The working hypothesis of GRIP also stresses the need for a fresh, collective mindset among Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland stakeholders, one that embraces a collaborative, regional approach to getting the job done:
"By working together on key transformative projects we can move the northwest Indiana region forward."
For more information on MPC's work in Northwest Indiana, visit the GRIP project web page.