EAST CHICAGO | A packed house received its first look Monday at a Downtown Action Agenda designed to revitalize the Main Street and Broadway Business District in the Harbor area of East Chicago.
Doyle Hyett, of HyettPalma, unveiled the plan he said was based in part on recommendations garnered from East Chicago residents.
The city paid $50,000 for Hyett's firm to conduct the study.
The plan is expected to be implemented over the next five years in a public/private partnership.
Hyett suggested the city concentrate on Main Street, between Broadway and 139th Street.
"That's the most pedestrian-oriented area that you have in that area," he said.
Hyett recommended the first floors of buildings in that stretch hold retail and food establishments, and upper floors of buildings over time should include loft apartments and offices.
A police presence and grand openings for new businesses were some of Hyett's other recommendations.
Hyett said hiring a preservation architect to do a facade study would be wise, and suggested the city set aside $150,000 for a facade and sign grant program for the business district.
He recommended that for the first year of the grant program, the city offer an 80/20 deal in which it would cover 80 percent of the improvement cost, not to exceed $25,000 per building.
Mayor Anthony Copeland told the audience revitalization won't occur overnight, but he expects things to start taking shape by the spring of 2014 and said the plan developed by HyettPalma will be followed to a tee.
Copeland said for the past two years the city has quietly been acquiring and demolishing properties in the Harbor business district area, along with making infrastructure improvements.
"We probably have control of, I would say, in the 80th percentile of the area that needs to be developed," he said.
Copeland figures about $350 million is needed to implement the total plan, much of which would be provided by private investment.
He said the city is asking for $38 million from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority and that gaming dollars and funds received from the Indiana Department of Transportation for work on roads would also be used.