CHICAGO (CBS) — Officials in Gary, Indiana, have won a $500,000 federal planning grant they plan to use to continue efforts to reduce blight.

The city plans to use the grant to attract even more investments through a hyper-local approach to addressing problems in the University Park East neighborhood, which is home to campuses for Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University Northwest.

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However, half the buildings are vacant, including the elementary school. All but two of the 25 nearby schools get Ds or Fs from the Indiana State Board of Education, and violent crime is three times the city’s average.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the way to solve those problems is to focus on many issues in one neighborhood.

“I think it’s both effective in attracting both state and federal money, but also in attracting local investment,” she said. “If we focus on an area, others will come and invest.”

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U.S. Housing and Urban Development regional director Antonio Riley said the federal agency believes in what Gary is trying to do.

“We believe in this community, and we believe in its future,” Riley said. “It takes a holistic approach to development, because the success of housing is related to jobs and schools and transportation.”

Freeman-Wilson said the city has a long way to go, but she’s optimistic things can turn around.

Gary has been working with the Legacy Foundation, a Lake County-based philanthropic organization.

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“Legacy Foundation is working to transform Lake County neighborhood-by-neighborhood,” said Legacy Foundation president Carolyn Saxton.