GARY, Ind. — Gary officials are transforming an area that was once one of the city’s most visible examples of urban blight into a green space they hope will bring more people downtown.

A dilapidated, 14-story building that once housed a 300-room Sheraton Hotel was demolished two years ago after years of decay, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported (

After the building was torn down, the city began soliciting ideas from the public about what should be done with the now vacant 1.2-acre site south of City Hall.

Work will begin this month on a project called City Centre Plaza, which will modify and remove part of a parking lot behind City Hall and incorporate a large scale rain garden.

The project is expected to cost more than $380,000, and will create green space for a memorial garden. The Gary fire and police departments will help find funding to support the memorial.

The rain gardens, along with the planting of trees and modifications of the parking lot, will also reduce the amount of stormwater entering the city’s combined sewer system, according to Brenda Scott-Henry, director of Gary’s Green Urbanism and Environmental Affairs Department.

Scott-Henry said work on the first phase of the project is expected to take about 90 days to complete. The second phase of the project is scheduled to start in 2017, and will include a market space at the south end of the site.

“Let’s say we have some type of fair or bazaar,” Scott-Henry said. “The space is there and available for us to do that type of event that would draw the public there.”

Information from: The Times,

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