MUNSTER | Houses destroyed two years ago by floodwaters and a natural gas explosion have given way to new flood-resistant homes throughout the north part of town.
And while the devastating 2008 flood has resulted in a bevy of new homes sprouting up, it's a trend town officials were hoping to spur all along as part of Munster's 2010 Comprehensive Plan.
Adopted earlier this year, the plan is designed to take the community of 24,000 residents through the next 20 years. The town's fourth comprehensive plan since 1938 looks to redevelop current neighborhoods with homes "that respect the existing scale and character of the area."
Munster's older neighborhoods, such as those surrounding Hohman and Broadmoor avenues, "showcase homes of a variety of historic architectural styles," the comprehensive plan says, including Victorian, classic, Georgian and romantic styles.
Aside from the new construction due to the flood, however, the redo trend has been sidelined by current economic conditions, said Mark Corey, Munster's building inspector.
"We would like to see this kind of redevelopment, but the financial situation in America is affecting it," Corey said. "We think there will be more redevelopment when the economy turns around."
A related trend in Munster involves combining lots to allow larger homes to be built. Corey said this has occurred three times this year -- on Ridge Road, Schreiber Drive and in the Park West subdivision.
Those homeowners had to buy a second lot because their proposed much larger homes were too wide or long to fit on a single lot and still adhere to Munster's building code, he said.
Still, most new construction in established neighborhoods is related to the events of Sept. 12, 13 and 14, 2008.
Demolishing and rebuilding flood-ravaged homes was one of three choices offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said James Mandon, Munster town engineer.
Twelve new homes are complete and another is under construction. Three of those homes, on Monroe Avenue, were destroyed by a natural gas explosion on Sept. 17, 2008. The remaining new homes on River Drive, Jackson Street and Northcote Avenue replaced those destroyed by floodwaters.
Construction requirements for new houses in the floodplain are more stringent than are standard in Munster, Mandon said.
One of the homes rebuilt after the flood was constructed by volunteers as part of the Lakeshore Area Regional Recovery of Indiana, which is a long-term recovery committee formed to help flood survivors restore their homes to a safe, sanitary and secure standard, said Jane Delligatti, the organization's director.
Sherry and Chuck DeMars' home on Broadmoor Avenue next to Southside Christian Church was rebuilt by faith-based groups, including the Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Amish/Mennonite Men of Nappanee. Ten Americorps volunteers, ages 18 to 24, worked on the home, as did teams from Habitat for Humanity, University of Chicago chapter.
Others who volunteered their labor were plumbers, carpenters, electricians and HVAC technicians, Delligatti said.
The DeMars' uninhabitable home was demolished in summer 2009, and the couple moved into their new home this winter. It will be the scene of several family celebrations, including Christmas 2010 with 75 guests, Sherry DeMars said.
"Thank you for all you've done for us," she told the dozens of people gathered outside the home to join in the house blessing on Feb. 10. "It's amazing."