One of 12 houses awaiting deconstruction in Gary, Indiana.

Fostering Resilience in the Steel City

In cities and communities that have been left behind by industry and are struggling to make a comeback, Delta is spurring revitalization efforts that are creative and community-led to create positive economic, social, and environmental impacts.

Gary, Indiana is an extreme example of a post-industrial city. Over the last 50 years, Gary has lost nearly 100,000 residents. This exodus has created a significant problem of blight and vacancy.

Pastor Brenda Jones Burch, lifelong Gary resident and member of Delta Institute’s local project advisory committee, witnessed first-hand the city’s transitions: “I’ve lived through many of the stages of Gary’s evolution — from vitality to degradation, from segregation to enforced curfew, civil rights sit downs, redlining, and the flight away. From the businesses moving to malls, to the ghost town and vacant properties and neglect. And I’m still here, because I love the city.”

From Delta’s perspective, Gary’s 6,000 vacant homes contain lumber and architectural elements that have a market value of roughly $12 million, and those materials have the potential to jumpstart a reclaimed building materials market that can employ local residents and generate much-needed economic activity.

In 2015, Delta launched a partnership with the City of Gary to demonstrate how deconstruction can help post-industrial cities meet several key goals, such as removing blight, creating economic opportunity, and diverting waste from landfills. By the end of 2016, 12 homes will be deconstructed, and the materials from those homes will be harvested for resale and reuse.

“If we can reclaim those materials, as well as revitalize the city, that’s a win-win.”

— PASTOR BRENDA JONES BURCH, FROM GARY, INDIANA

From Delta’s perspective, Gary’s 6,000 vacant homes contain lumber and architectural elements that have a market value of roughly $12 million.

For people like Pastor Burch, the removal of these vacant structures is a welcome change. “Vacant properties are unsafe for everyone. They need to be removed,” said Burch. “If we can reclaim those materials, as well as  revitalize the city, that’s a win-win.”

Pastor Burch is optimistic about the future of the city. “People like me see beyond the blight and vacant properties; we also see those who stay, those who fight to revive and revitalize this land full of natural resources; those who offer a beacon of hope for Gary, Indiana, for generations to come.”

While the revitalization of Gary is a long-term and multi-faceted effort, Delta is fortunate to have local partners like Pastor Burch working alongside us. “Let’s get these (Delta) projects started,” said Burch. “I want to live to see Gary’s evolution from degradation to vitality.”

Creating community resilience
through deconstruction

By the end of 2016, 12 homes will be deconstructed in Gary, Indiana, and the materials from those homes will be harvested for resale and reuse.

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