Knight Cities Challenge: What’s Your Best Idea to Make Gary More Successful?

By: Legacy Foundation Last Updated: October 15, 2014

legacy-foundation-logoThe City of Gary is ushering in a new era. The days when the city was synonymous with urban blight and crime are fading into the distance. Once a symbol of disinvestment standing next to City Hall, the Sheraton Hotel is being demolished and will be replaced with community green space. Marquette Park has undergone an extensive renovation, making it a hub for community and family-focused events, including Gary’s first marathon. Thanks to hundreds of volunteers, a newly renovated Boys and Girls Club sits in the once vacant Tolleston School. Gary’s hometown brewery is producing critically acclaimed beer, and continues to grow. And, IUN and Ivy Tech have partnered to build a new Arts and Sciences building on the corner of 35th and Broadway to serve as a cornerstone of redevelopment.

The City is on the upswing, and everyone from teachers to business owners is feeling it. But what’s behind Gary’s revival, and what can we do to maintain, support and expand this transformation? How do we ensure Gary continues to become a more vibrant place to live and work?

Over the next three years, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a private, independent foundation based in Miami, will invest $15 million to answer these questions in Gary and 25 other communities across the United States. The foundation believes that it is the city’s own activists, designers, artists, planning professionals, hackers, architects, city officials, educators, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, block captains and social workers who have the solutions, and it wants them to take hold of their city’s future. All are welcome to submit ideas to the Knight Cities Challenge (knightcities.org) for projects on what the foundation believes are the three key drivers of success in Gary: attracting talented people, expanding economic opportunity, and creating a culture of civic engagement.

Why these three focus areas, instead of traditional metrics such as better school systems or more employers? Because smart research has proven that these three concepts are the real key to long-term success in our communities. Strengthening these aspects of our community is a holistic approach to success – it gives our community the tools it needs to do everything else.

Businesses already know that attracting and keeping the best and brightest is good for their companies, but it’s also good for cities. Research shows cities are stronger, more resilient and vibrant when they can attract people with skills, education and the ability to succeed. But to achieve this, cities must make it clear that they offer a diverse culture and vibrant lifestyle that appeal to talented people, both younger and older.

Expanding opportunity means both expanding economic prospects broadly and breaking down divides that can otherwise create bifurcated communities in which the wealthy and the poor live unconnected from one another. To do this, cities should create spaces where people of diverse backgrounds can connect across economic barriers so that strengths can be shared throughout the community.

Engagement focuses on spurring connections between residents and driving civic involvement. We know that residents must take hold of their cities’ futures if they want them to succeed. We need to find ways to encourage residents to be engaged and to band together with others to set the agenda for change.

We know these concepts have made a change here in Gary. We are working to revitalize the city one neighborhood at a time and need your help to succeed!

Now there’s a chance for all of us to actively participate in and sustain the city’s growth. Do your part and submit an idea at knightcities.org before the Nov. 14 deadline. No project is too small – as long as your idea is big. You can find out more about this opportunity by attending on of our informational question and answer sessions. Please call Legacy Foundation at (219) 736-1880 to find out dates and locations.

Q&A Sessions to be held on the following dates:

October 23rd at 1:00 pm
Purdue Calumet
Center for Innovation, Simulation and Visualization Theater
Powers Building, Main Campus
Hammond, Indiana

October 28th at 4:00 pm
Gary City Hall
401 Broadway
Gary, Indiana

October 29th at 6:30 pm
Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts, Miller Beach Arts and Creative District
540 S. Lake Street
Gary, Indiana

*October 31st at 2:00 pm
Ivy Tech Community College
1440 East 35th Street
Gary, Indiana

*featuring Carol Colletta, VP of National and Community Initiatives, Knight Foundation