Gary, Indiana Installs Green Infrastructure to Revitalize Blighted Areas, Manage Stormwater

Outcomes and Conclusions

The City of Gary’s “Vacant to Vibrant” project converted .37 acres of vacant land to green infrastructure, improving stormwater management on three vacant Aetna neighborhood parcels. The spaces now feature bat houses, rain gardens and native plantings. Maintenance requirements include removing trash and debris, maintaining the plants, planting new plants, removing dead plants, weeding, weed whacking, mowing, watering, mulching and monitoring stormwater drainage. The Gary Storm Water Management District created the Urban Conservation Team to provide maintenance support for these and Gary’s numerous other green infrastructure installations.

After grant funding for “Vacant to Vibrant” ended, Gary’s Redevelopment Commission launched the green infrastructure model to repurpose vacant land as a blight elimination strategy and announced plans to install green infrastructure at five new sites in fall 2018. Additional green infrastructure projects underway include the Gary Green Link Corridor, an off-road hike and bike trail, the Grey to Green project in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation at Gary City Hall, the Buchanan Street Green Gateway in partnership with the Lake Michigan Coastal Program and a stormwater master plan.

The “Vacant to Vibrant” project was a combined effort between the following organizations: Cleveland Botanical Garden, Great Lakes Protection Fund, US EPA’s Strong Cities Strong Communities, IU-Northwest and the City of Gary.

Lessons Learned

Gary Director of Environmental Affairs and Green Urbanism Brenda Scott-Henry comments that “one challenge has been finding landscapers and contractors that have the knowledge and skills needed to maintain existing green infrastructure and install new projects.” As a result, construction was outsourced to workers outside of Gary and an opportunity to invest in local construction companies was missed. In response to these findings, the City created the Urban Conservation Team to maintain green infrastructure. The City also submitted a proposal to the Lake Michigan Coastal Program requesting funds to support an environmental education native landscaping training program.

Project Resources

To learn more about the USEPA’s Green Infrastructure Technical Assistance Program, visit their website and read their report about Gary.

Read the City of Gary’s Community Engagement Framework to learn about how Gary involved community members in their green infrastructure projects.

Read the Cleveland Botanical Garden's Vacant to Vibrant blog for more information about the organization's process and methodology.

For more information about this project and other similar green infrastructure projects visit Legacy City Design's website.

For more information about green infrastructure in Gary, contact:
Brenda Scott-Henry
Director of Environmental Affairs and Green Urbanism, City of Gary bhenry@ci.gary.in.us
(219) 882-3000