Today at the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Region V office in Chicago, a critically important peg was put in place to support a coordinated reinvestment strategy for Gary and Northwest Indiana’s urban core. Regional administrators and staff from eight different federal departments (HUD, U.S. Dept. of Labor, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, U.S. Dept. of Commerce, U.S. Dept. of Justice, U.S Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Dept. of Transportation) convened to hear about priority plans and initiatives, share where they are already working, and discuss how they can work collaboratively to forward transformative projects in Northwest Indiana. The federal agencies were joined by Mayor of Gary, Ind. Karen Freeman-Wilson and members of her cabinet, Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA), Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, and MPC – through our Gary and Region Investment Project (GRIP) – as part of an unprecedented discussion focused on bringing the power of multiple federal agencies to bear for an “all hands on deck,” place-based revitalization strategy in Gary.
No one can doubt the power of a coordinated approach. For the past two years, MPC has been working with partners in Northwest Indiana to solidify both vertical coordination across levels of government (local, regional, state, and federal) as well as horizontal coordination across different departments within a level of government. Early on, we recognized that Northwest Indiana has a secret weapon in the RDA, a unique and potent agency that identifies and makes investments to improve regionally significant infrastructure assets in Northwest Indiana. The RDA’s model is effective and worthy of study and replication across the country. With nearly $27 million per year to invest, the RDA has advanced goal-driven, transformative projects ranging from lakefront reclamation that has spurred adjacent community and economic development to their hallmark project, expanding the Gary-Chicago International Airport.
Even prior to Karen Freeman-Wilson’s election in November 2011, MPC and the RDA began meeting with her and her yet-to-be-announced staff to identify development priorities within Gary that impact the region as a whole. Mayor Freeman-Wilson has enthusiastically embraced a stronger partnership between her city and the region and, with the help of an impressive list of new staff serving in her administration ready to work, welcomes all who are sincerely committed to Gary’s future to be partners.
Today, the federal government joined that team in force! Since Day One in office, President Obama has directed federal departments to work together more closely and build off one another’s investments and policies to get greater results than any single agency could on its own. That directive has led to the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, TIGER grants and collaborative efforts within the White House – as well as countless new investments in communities and clusters of communities that are making their own strides toward more coordinated planning and development. The power of the premise can’t be denied.
HUD’s Region V Administrator Antonio Riley deserves kudos for convening his peers and sparking an important and timely discussion that will have a lasting impact on Gary, Northwest Indiana, and greater metropolitan Chicago. We at MPC look forward to assisting this model initiative and playing a key role in the redevelopment of one of America’s historic urban centers.