Instead of ceremonial shovels, officials wielded sledge hammers Monday as Delaney Community West, a 64-year-old public housing complex, began crumbling down.
By late spring, all 42 buildings that were once home to 227 families, will be gone.
Officials from Gary, the Gary Housing Authority, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development attended a press conference at the demolition site near 21st Avenue and Polk Street, just south of shuttered Duncan Elementary School. They said the demolition will increase public safety and leave the property available for development.
The $3.2 million project also includes seven buildings in 27 units of Concord Village at 5001 W. 19th Ave.
“When you look at Delaney, there was joy and lives created, but it served its purpose. Now, it’s time to move on,” said Joseph P. Galvan, HUD Midwest regional administrator.
The demolition of Delaney and Concord Village and other Gary public housing sites reflects a new federal government philosophy that has moved away from clustering large populations of impoverished residents. Instead, officials favor scattered site housing like Duneland Village in the city’s Miller section.
Officials said the smaller brick duplex units east of Delaney West and west of Roosevelt High School, would also be demolished in the next few years.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said when Delaney West is gone and planted over with grass, it could serve as a springboard for new housing.
“We think there’s opportunity for development. There are houses on all sides… this would lend itself to new housing.”
She said she planned to attend a Nov. 16 housing summit at the White House to learn more about the Trump administration’s public housing plans.
Gary Housing Authority executive director Julian Marsh said Delaney West has been closed about three years and residents were relocated to other public housing sites in Gary and elsewhere.
Officials used sledge hammers to dent the front door of a unit for photographers, and then a big yellow excavator began knocking the building’s roof down.
Officials said because Delaney was located in an existing neighborhood, it’s been difficult for the GHA to prevent illegal trespassing, vandalism and other illegal activities that could endanger the safety of nearby residents.