EAST CHICAGO | BP is exploring the potential of buying property in the Marktown neighborhood, a company spokesman has confirmed.
One of the larger property owners in Marktown had contacted the BP Whiting Refinery last summer indicating a willingness to sell, said local BP spokesman Tom Keilman.
“Ultimately, we would be looking at the entire area over there,” Keilman said. “It's an area that's isolated away from the rest of the city and surrounded by industry. It would make sense to utilize that as green space property for the long term or some type of parking area.”
Over the past 20 years, BP has acquired approximately 30 properties in Whiting. One area where BP has purchased property is Schrage Avenue from 129th to 125th streets as residents have been willing to sell their homes.
Keilman said if BP moves forward in buying property in Marktown, the company would work with willing sellers, similar to its purchases in Whiting.
Keilman said all talks are preliminary. While company officials spoke with two major property owners before Christmas, no formal communication has been sent out to Marktown residents, Keilman said.
BP likely will work with the city of East Chicago to determine the best approach for communicating with residents, Keilman said. East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland did not respond to a request for comment as of Tuesday afternoon.
Longtime Marktown resident Paul Myers said Tuesday he has met with BP officials on the issue and is upset about the potential impact the company buying properties will have on the neighborhood's residents.
“This is more than a historic preservation issue,” Myers said. “This is a human issue. This is about families and people.”
Myers said if East Chicago created a historic review board, the neighborhood would have extra protection, but he said he feels city officials aren't interested.
If created, the review board's members would have the power to designate Marktown as a neighborhood meriting preservation, which could curb demolitions for a certain period of time, Myers said.
Marktown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However the distinction only would work to lessen the impact on Marktown if federal funds or a federal agency were involved, said Tiffany Tolbert, director of the Northwest field office for Indiana Landmarks.
Indiana Landmarks, a nonprofit organization with the mission to protect historical properties, holds protective easements on approximately 15 properties in Marktown after the property owner entered into an agreement with the association, Tolbert said. The easement allows Indiana Landmarks to refuse an offer placed on a protected property and instead acquire the property itself.
The earliest homes in Marktown date back to 1917, according to the Marktown Preservation Society.
Marktown resident Kimberly Rodriguez said she doesn't expect the homeowners to sell because a lot of the residents are on fixed incomes.
Rodriguez, who is the precinct committeewoman representing the area, said she's gotten questions from residents wondering BP's plans but tells them she knows nothing concrete.
“The taxes are low here for us,” Rodriguez said. “It comfortable. We get a lot of negativity as far as the community, but that's all over. We have just been pegged for years.”