Gary civil rights project gets $59,000 boost

NWI Times

GARY — The city of Gary has been awarded a grant to support the development of a National Civil Rights Hall of Fame, according to a release Thursday from the office of U.S. Representative Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville.

The $59,000 grant comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration. It will be used to support the development of a feasibility study and business plan to establish a National Civil Rights Hall of Fame facility and headquarters for the National Civil Rights Institute and Hall of Fame, Inc., in Gary, according to the release.

Last year, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson sponsored a resolution that supported the National Civil Rights Hall of Fame Board's grant request. The Gary Common Council approved the resolution allowing the City to contribute the required local match.

Former Mayor Richard G. Hatcher has spoken of creating the facility for about 30 years. He appeared before the Lake County Council in March 2016 seeking county funding. The Times reported at the time that county officials wanted more financial data and other information on the proposal.

Hatcher's foundation was reported at that time to have purchased Gary's former Benjamin Bannecker school and its 10-acre campus near 23rd Avenue and Garfield Street in 2015 and to have hired a Chicago architect to plan the four-story, $10 million facility.

In Thursday's release, National Civil Rights Institute and Hall of Fame Board Member Lamar Taylor stated Hatcher and others associated with the project "are hopeful that this grant will allow us to continue to move forward and build the National Civil Rights Hall of Fame.”

Visclosky stated he deeply appreciated Gary's "unrelenting initiative to establish this historical and significant facility. It will undoubtedly build upon the foundational economic attractions of Gary and draw additional visitors and businesses to our region.”

Freeman-Wilson stated the building "is just the right fit for Gary and a fitting tribute to Mayor Hatcher’s legacy. Over the past five years, we have had numerous discussions about the project and have continued to work with board members through our Department of Commerce. Receiving this grant is huge."