Rail-related development already on its way | Northwest Indiana Business Headlines

As construction the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s West Lake Corridor and Double Track projects gets fully underway this spring, officials continue to work on plans for the transit-oriented development, or TOD, that is hoped will bring a significant part of the investment and population the rail projects are expected to generate.

The TOD will be focused in transit development districts, or TDDs, that will cover one-half square mile around the stations, with boundaries taking in sites seen as most likely to bring new development.

In many TDDs, that will focus on housing, a topic of a recent forum hosted by One Region and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, and the businesses that new, denser housing can bring. 

“It’s the housing for our commuters,” RDA President and CEO Sherri Ziller said at the Destination 2024 event. “It’s the retail space for businesses that cater to commuters and for those living in the housing. It could also be professional office spaces.”

“It’s coming at a rapid pace; it’s coming because of the train projects,” Ziller said.

Even as those plans are being developed this year, agreements are being made to start the TOD process, particularly in Hammond and Michigan City, each with a sense of urgency about downtown revitalization. All development will be guided by municipalities, through their zoning and land-use regulation and official planning bodies.

Activity underway now at some current and future station areas, summarized at quarterly meetings of a TDD advisory committee, includes:

Munster/Dyer Main Street

Consultants working for the RDA eye mixed-use — housing and business — development around the station area, and greater walkability in the neighborhoods and commercial corridor adjacent to it. The project includes a westward extension of Main Street through the station area. Commercial and office development nearby are seen as opporunities to enhance the area as an employment hub. 

Munster Ridge Road

Similar development is envisioned for the Ridge Road station, though the railroad’s intersection with Ridge is expected to bring “higher levels of activity” associated with the station. The town of Munster is also planning to improve the Ridge Road and nearby Calumet Avenue streetscapes to make them more inviting and safer for foot and bicycle traffic.

The Ridge Road station area is immediately adjacent to significantly sized single-family neighborhoods, suggesting residential development that “steps down in scale to blend in with the neighborhood fabric.”

Hammond Gateway/Downtown

Hammond’s Gateway Station will be a locus of activity for train riders in its position as a station for both the South Shore Line and West Lake Corridor. Mixed-use development is envisioned for the area, particularly for the Gostlin, Chicago and Hohman corridors.

Among the most significant activity already taking place is in downtown Hammond, where no station currently exists, and which was not included in NICTD’s West Lake plan. But the city, as part of its downtown revitalization effort, intends to put a station near Hohman Avenue, and several projects are in the works that fully fit the TOD objective.

The Madison Lofts apartments at Hohman and Sibley, a $15 million project, will include 54 market-rate units with modern amenities. 

“It will begin what we hope will be the housing renaissance for downtown Hammond,” city Chief of Staff Phil Taillon said at the Feb. 28 housing forum. 

The old Bank Calumet building at 5231 Hohman will become home to 100 residential units and 7,000 square feet of retail space. Taillon said urban planner Jeff Speck, who worked with the city on the new downtown plan, called it “the best building you have in downtown Hammond.”

And across the street, a new Rimbach Plaza will, according to plans, include a 208-unit apartment building and a public plaza. That, and the Bank Calumet project, are expected to be $24 million investments.

East Chicago

East Chicago is currently the South Shore’s busiest station in terms of ridership, with its relatively large parking lot and long platform. The TDD process has identified the Roxana neighborhood and Indianapolis Boulevard corridor, stretching up to 151st Street, as focuses of attention, and as far north as the Chicago Avenue corridor.

The boulevard corridor presents infill opportunities for commercial and residential development; the Roxana neighborhood already offers a stable, walkable population center with opportunities for strengthening.

Gary Miller

The area around the Miller area has seen significant property acquisition and demolition, and realignment of U.S. 12 and 20 and renewed, more welcoming and walkable streetscapes are expected to enhance the neighborhood’s attractiveness to developers.

Gary has also recently updated its land use and zoning to support TOD.

Portage and Ogden Dunes

The development of the TDD for this station has included recognition of “tremendous opportunity” presented by city ownership of large properties. The city is currently planning development at Burns Parkway and Ind. 249. A Burns Parkway extension would “create opportunities for a new gateway into the community anchored by high-quality development — corridor planning in process.”

TOD directly around the station area would focus on enhanced walkability for mixed-use, suburban neighborhood and employment center uses.

Michigan City 11th Street

Michigan City has several projects in the pipeline as it experiences directly the opening phase of Double Track construction. 

“We have four projects in various stages of approval,” Planning Director Skyler York told the recent housing forum. “These four projects represent approximately 500 units in our downtown, within that TDD boundary.”

A developer plans to invest $35 million in a multi-use project that includes 200 apartments in downtown Michigan City.

TRG Community Development, a division of The Richman Group of Companies, intends to build one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments at the corner of Eighth Street and Michigan Boulevard in a $35 million, 200-unit project.

And Flaherty & Collins Properties, in partnership with NICTD as well as the city, recently won the city’s support for an $80 million mixed-use development to fill the city block that includes the South Shore’s 11th Street station.

The plan, with the placeholder name 11th Street Central, includes a new train station, 208 luxury residential apartment homes in a 12-story high rise, over 10,000 square feet of commercial space and a 558-space parking garage.

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