Hammond learns proposals for former River Park apartments site

2013-02-19T22:30:00Z 2013-02-21T00:09:04Z Hammond learns proposals for former River Park apartments siteChelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | The former site of a crime-ridden apartment complex, now a key location for development in Hammond, is attracting interest from a brewery, veterinarian clinic and other proposed commercial projects at a prominent intersection along Interstate 80/94.

Oxbow Landing, at the southeast corner of the Borman Expressway and Kennedy Avenue, is at one of Northwest Indiana's most visible interchanges.

Until 2006, the site was home to the troubled River Park Apartments complex, which the city demolished.

“It has the chance to be one of the top developments in the entire city,” said Phil Taillon, executive director of the city's Department of Planning and Development. “And we have a number of great retail-type locations.”

The Hammond Redevelopment Commission received its first glimpse of the site's potential Tuesday when proposals were unveiled for the approximately 16-acre site.

The city received three proposals, including a restaurant and brewery from the owners of the Flossmoor Station Restaurant and Brewery in Flossmoor, a medical veterinary specialty facility and a commercial concept described as similar to a Mars Cheese Castle.

The bids will be reviewed by city staff, who will make recommendations on which to accept. The bids ranged from purchasing approximately 5 acres up to purchasing the entire site.

The parent company of Flossmoor Station bid $996,996 for 7 acres with hopes to build a production brewery and restaurant, said owner Carolyn Armstrong.

While expanding into Hammond, the restaurant would maintain its Flossmoor location where it's served up house-made beer and food inside a renovated train station for 17 years. The brewery is at maximum production at the Flossmoor site and a new production facility would allow the company to send more of its beer out to distributors, Armstrong said.

Pyramid Development Inc. bid $875,500 for about 5 acres of the site. The company's owner, Greg Kaplan, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday. Taillon said Kaplan described his concept as comparable to a Mars Cheese Castle, a Wisconsin-based retailer of cheese and meats.

Illinois veterinarian Dr. Claude Gendreau bid $351,560 for the entire site. The doctor plans to use 3 acres to build a veterinarian facility and then work with Holladay Properties, which has a Portage office, to develop the rest of the site with retail, said Matt Reardon with SEH of Indiana.

Reardon said the proposal is a comprehensive approach to developing the site with an initial proposed investment of $6 million and the creation of 35 jobs.

“The other bids were great. We wouldn't have a problem working with them,” Reardon said, “but we have a project ready to go.”

The city previously worked with a large development company, which had wanted to purchase and build out the site as a lifestyle center. But those plans fell through in 2008 as the economy weakened, Taillon said.

Starting from scratch, the city built a road through Oxbow Landing and decided to sell the property by acre. In January, the city once again put out a notice seeking developers.

Separately, hotel developer Yagnesh Patel previously purchased 2.5 acres at the same corner with plans to build a Hampton Inn hotel. Taillon said every time he speaks with Patel he says he's closer to getting financing for the project.

“When he starts hearing about this other development occurring around his property, it's only going to entice him to move quicker to get this deal done," Taillon said. "To get the hotel up at the same time as the other developments.”

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