HAMMOND | Almost two years after the removal of a major obstacle to development at the Cabela's site, the area around the store appears ready to land its first tenant.
City officials heralded the removal of the Cabela's site from the flood plain in 2011 as a necessary boost for the economic development of the area. Now in 2013, the city is considering plans for a 190,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter at the site.
Cabela's arrived in Hammond to much fanfare in October 2007, but the recession, aggravated by flooding risks, has left the outdoor outfitter the sole occupant of the nearly 100-acre site. Cabela's stores are regarded as tourist attractions and generators of adjoining development.
“(Cabela's) draws other development around them,” said Phil Taillon, executive director of the city's Department of Planning and Development. “Although it has been stagnant because of the economy, now things have turned around, and they're just as strong a draw as they were when they first moved in.”
The company continues to market surplus property around the Hammond store for development, Cabela's spokesman Wes Remmer said Thursday.
Remmer declined to discuss specifics on the performance of the Hammond store. The Hammond location was honored as the company's best-performing store nationwide in 2010.
The Walmart Supercenter is expected to take about 20 acres of the 50 acres that are still developable at the site.
“There has not been a lot of interest,” Taillon said, “because there’s not a lot of investors out there spending a lot of money right now. Things are finally turning around, and that’s a good indicator for the Cabela’s site.”
When Cabela’s announced its intentions to come to Hammond, the city created a tax increment financing district to help fund $25 million in infrastructure improvements. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. — which acts as the state's department of commerce — and Indiana Department of Transportation also gave a combined $7 million to the project.
Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told The Times in 2006 when he thought of Cabela’s, he thought of tourism after visiting a store in Kansas.
“They are just breathtaking,” Daniels told The Times. “I encourage people to visit. When you see their parking lots, you see why we made an exception to our rule of no incentives for retailers.”
Commercial interest in a stalled development across the street from Cabela's also may pick up soon, Taillon said.
Property in the Gateway Promenade — locked in foreclosure proceedings since 2010 — likely will head to a Lake County sheriff's sale in the fall. Blue Light Holdings LLC was the developer of the promenade.
The development stretches the 7900 block of Indianapolis Boulevard and includes the old Builders Square property and the property where the Aldi, White Castle and offices of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles are located.
County records show the properties were placed on the list for the sheriff's sale in July, but a continuance has been requested, said Adam Toosley, an attorney representing the lender in the case. Toosley said leases of current businesses on the site will not be impacted.
In 2009 at the height of the recession, the development, formerly known as Interstate Plaza, had been pegged for a multiscreen movie theater and a Burlington Coat Factory.
Taillon said the sale does not include the Alverno Clinical Laboratories property.
“By this sheriff’s sale occurring, it’s going to open up the property for sale again — for sale or lease,” Taillon said. “We’re going to have activity there in the very near future.”
Blue Light Holdings LLC is linked to Northbrook, Ill.-based developer George Markopoulos, who did not return a call for comment. Markopoulos is the same developer on the Woodmar Mall project.
Taillon said the city does not plan to buy the land because of budget constraints but is willing to work as a liaison for companies interested in locating there.
The Hammond Redevelopment Commission likely will discuss the Walmart project at its July 16 meeting, Taillon said. No incentives are being offered for the Walmart, which is planned for southwest of the Cabela's store, Taillon said. The commission lifted restrictions on the Cabela's site in December that prohibited certain businesses already in the city from locating to the site. In exchange, Cabela's agreed to pay the city $2.25 million. The Walmart Supercenter will replace a smaller Walmart on 165th Street that was built in 2000.
The commission also removed a provision in the agreement requiring Cabela's to hire a certain number of Hammond residents. When the store opened in 2007, more than two-thirds of the full-time positions available were given to Hammond residents. As of 2011, 34 of the store's 102 full-time positions were filled by Hammond residents, along with 37 of the 120 part-time positions, according to a jobs report provided to the city by Cabela's.
Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Ryan said Cabela's will serve as a catalyst for development, even south into Highland.
"They've invested millions in that property," Ryan said. "Once it starts to go, it's going to start steam rolling."