Survey: Residents want family programs, fitness and community gardens at planned Tolleston Opportunity Hub

Results from a community survey released on Monday will help inform design decisions for a planned $30 million, 31-acre wellness and opportunity hub in Gary.

Respondents were given the opportunity to weigh in on what amenities and activities they would like to see offered by the Tolleston Opportunity Campus, which will be operated by a partnership between the the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana, Methodist Hospitals, and the Crossroads YMCA. The opportunity hub project will see the expansion of the the Gary branch of the Boys and Girls Club, located in the former Tolleston Middle School on West 19th Avenue.

A total of 579 people responded to the survey, 418 by phone and 161 via an online form. More than 70% of respondents said they wanted the new facility to provide family-oriented activity nights, and around 60% of respondents expressed interest in community gardening, and family-oriented group fitness classes.

Around three quarters of respondents voiced support for an indoor track and fitness area. A hot tub, a splash pad, an indoor lap pool, a sauna and a teaching kitchen were each desired by more than half.

The results were presented during a public meeting held on Monday at the Gary Boys and Girls Club.

“We want to make sure we’re getting the results and the feedback from the community about what the needs are before we finalize the design,” Ellis Dumas, Vice President of Programs & Outcomes at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana told the Post-Tribune. “We don’t want to always look like the Y in Crown Point or the Y in Hammond. Everyone has their own individuality, including this community, so we really want to design around that.”

The planned facility’s $30 million price tag represents a significant investment in a Gary neighborhood that has struggled with blight and population loss. Money for the project came from three different sources. In August, the Gary Common Council voted unanimously to allocate $10 million from the American Rescue Plan Act — just under an eighth of the total funds it received under the federal stimulus bill — towards the project. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. and the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation each contributed another $10 million.

Design work, informed by the results of the survey, is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with construction beginning in the spring of 2024. The opportunity hub is expected to be completed in mid to late 2025.

The new facility will be the first YMCA in Gary in nearly half a century. The city’s old YMCA, located on Fifth Avenue, opened just a few years after the city of Gary was founded in 1909. It closed in 1976.