MICHIGAN CITY — The door has been opened for possible construction of a travel center and other businesses along Interstate 94.
A separate idea is turning the closed Waste Management landfill at the I-94/U.S. 421 intersection into a place for recreation with zip lines and other amenities.
The LaPorte County Redevelopment Commission has ordered plans be drafted for extending water and sewer lines underneath I-94 to the proposed construction site on U.S 421 and the landfill.
LaPorte County attorney Doug Biege said an existing tax increment financing district would be extended to include the development and landfill to pay for extending utilities. A request for financing could go before the LaPorte County Council for a final vote before summer.
The decision to extend water and sewer to the properties was made recently at the request of U.S 421 Partners LLC.
Tony Vendramin, of Chesterton, the principal owner of the development firm, said a travel center, restaurant, hotels and some retailers are ready to sign letters of intent to build on the over 50-acre parcel if utilities get extended.
"They want to be there," Vendramin said.
Vendramin also vowed to contribute $100,000 toward the cost of running water and sewer lines to the site.
He said commitments have also been received from businesses like the Harley Davidson and Harbor Chevy Buick GMC dealerships to tie into the utilities.
Mke Seitz, director of economic development for LaPorte County, said Michigan City has also verbally agreed to treat leachate from the old landfill.
"The wheels of progress are in motion," Seitz said.
The lines will run underneath all six lanes of I-94 from the north.
LaPorte County Planner Mitch Bishop said talks are ongoing with Waste Management about converting the landfill into a park featuring zip lines, alpine sledding, a bird watching platform and other attractions.
The north side of the interchange has seen hotel development in recent years, along with construction of the new Franciscan Health Michigan City hospital scheduled for completion by the end of the year.
This would be the first major growth on the south side of the interchange resulting from previous water and sewer extensions done to position that area for considerable development.
"It’s a beautiful project. We’d love to see it happen," said Joe Coar, the LaPorte County Redevelopment Commission president.