EAST CHICAGO │ Added jobs and services for residents, increased property values and improved ground routes were some of the goals addressed by officials during the city’s second waterfront revitalization initiative public meeting on Tuesday.
The city is currently in the middle of its Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority application process for the revitalization.
“We’re asking the RDA for our share of monies we put in there for the last roughly 12 years,” Mayor Anthony Copeland said. “This waterfront plan, I tell people, spans three administrations. This area is prime for development.”
Copeland said he was “blown away” when he saw traffic counts showing about 35,000 vehicles that enter the steel mill, casino and marina daily.
“The opportunity is there,” he said.
East Chicago will receive 10 cents for each toll paid by vehicles on the new Cline toll road once it’s built. The city also hopes to capitalize on the traffic that bypasses the toll road with commercial ventures along improved ground routes.
Officials said it’s not an overnight project, and according to Copeland, it's “not for the faint of heart.”
Copeland said he could have simply went to the RDA for the roughly $38 million the city has paid into it and “put a bandshell along the lake.”
“Not criticizing what anyone else has done, but I saw we needed a direct infusion into economic development and that’s where we’re trying to tie all of our dollars into,” he said.
Gregg Calpino, of the engineering and design firm SEH of Indiana, told the approximately 20 residents on hand at the East Chicago Public Library that the city is currently in the middle of the RDA application process and they hope to move forward with some of the projects, or “visions,” by June.
“The real goal for the RDA as a funding source is they don’t want to be the prime funder,” he said. “Their job is to leverage other funds. That’s what’s exciting about this project.”
Calpino said there are opportunities to take advantage of other funds, including those from the Indiana Department of Transportation available for roadways.
Longtime East Chicagoan Bryan Johnson attended the meeting and said for too long residents have seen what other communities have that East Chicago doesn’t.
“People in East Chicago are just sick and tired of seeing their city look like garbage and us being deprived of what other cities have,” he said.
Residents can take a “Waterfront Survey” available on the city’s website at www.eastchicago.com.