Michigan City sees progress with North End Plan

2012-11-08T11:57:00Z 2013-10-09T14:28:14Z Michigan City sees progress with North End PlanStan Madduox Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
November 08, 2012 11:57 am  • 

More life is returning to Michigan City's once-dormant north end from a strategic plan that is not being allowed to gather dust.

Authors of the plan five years after it was developed have taken notice, and officials sold on the early results vow to pursue the recommendations that have yet to be implemented.

''It really is nice to see the beginning of our planning revolution,'' said city councilman Richard Murphy.

Professor Andrew von Mauer from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich., returned Wednesday to go over the plan and discuss the results with the city council and the audience at City Hall.

''It doesn't seem to be a plan that's been sitting on the shelf,'' von Mauer said.

Among the things catching his attention was the new uptown arts district promoting culture and events luring people into the streets and businesses on the north side, also referred to as the downtown.

Von Mauer, with help from his students at the university's school of architecture in 2007, developed the ''North End Plan'' at the request of city officials frustrated by a longstanding lack of direction for that once-thriving area of the city.

Right away, von Mauer said great potential from the north end's close proximity to the lakefront and major highways like U.S. 35 feeding into it was seen in being able to make healthier the heart or ''essential core of the city.''

The plan included other recommendations like promoting reinvestment of the Elston Grove neighborhood and integrating the north end with the lakefront so both areas can share and grow each of their assets.

In response, the city has poured millions of dollars into sewer and street improvements and beautified a once-blighted U.S. 35 with things such as new streetscapes and landscaping.

There's also been considerable talk of relocating the South Shore line from 11th Street to the lakefront.

Von Mauer said that would bring in more people from Chicago and help with the connection between the lakefront and north end that features attractions like Blue Chip Casino and Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets mall.

Relocating the rail line given its huge cost might take years to materialize, but von Mauer encouraged officials to keep implementing parts of the plan that can be accomplished in short order to build on the recent gains.

''Sticking to it at some level is something we would probably encourage. It's already made a huge difference,'' von Maur said.

Another recommendation being actively pursued is looking for ways to create more housing along Trail Creek, something that could help attract wealthier individuals because of the creek being next to the marina leading to the lake.

City Councilman Tim Bietry said the north end plan is constantly used as a guide for ongoing redevelopment efforts.

Bietry said another task in the plan that could be completed next is converting the empty old Warren Building at 7th and Franklin streets into a facility where artists reside and work in studios.

That could mean another 100 or so new residents to the downtown area.

Bietry said other things being chased include improving access to the north end on U.S. 12 from both the west and east.

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