The former Simmons bedding factory – called the Lake Business Center since the early 1980s – continues to receive a facelift both inside and outside by Simborg Development.
In the 1950s through 1970s, this huge warehouse and office complex along Calumet Avenue was the state-of-the-art nerve center for Simmons Mattress Co. New products were developed there and produced for global distribution.
By the late 1970s, Simmons was gone. Until Simborg Development began repurposing it, the property was used for a variety of short-term ventures and by not-for-profit groups.
In December 2011, crews and equipment began erasing that past by tearing down the old Simmons warehouse to transform this 72-acre site into the Lake Business Center.
Developer Mitch Simborg plans the $60 million renovation to include more than 100,000 square feet of prime office space and more than 900,000 square feet of manufacturing/warehouse/distribution space to create a mixed use center of retail shops, restaurants, commercial offices and medical facilities.
Revenue from the Munster tax increment financing district helps fuel this development which stretches along Calumet Avenue and intersects with Fran-Lin Parkway north of the Pepsi Bottling Plant, said Town Manager Tom DeGiulio.
A portion of the property taxes paid by businesses in that district is returned by the state to the Munster Redevelopment Commission. Those funds are then used to benefit the TIF district and areas immediately adjacent.
TIF funds and the town's A credit rating from Standard & Poors also have allowed Munster to sell economic development bonds to finance various projects and infrastructure improvements.
In 2011, the Town of Munster sold more than $19 million in 20-year economic development bonds to help finance redevelopment and additions to the Lake Business Center. Similar to the economic bond issue that helped develop the Munster Shops property on North Calumet Avenue, this sale of municipal bonds provided $16.1 million for redevelopment of this commercial property. Simborg is financing the remaining development costs.
Another $1.2 million of the bond funds was earmarked for Munster to purchase 11 acres within the Lake Business Center site. Munster officials closed on that property sale in December with a purchase price of $962,500.
“While it may be a few years away, the town is prepared for location of a train station there,” DeGiulio says.
The 20-year bonds' principal and interest will be repaid using only Munster tax increment financing revenue. No residential property taxes will be used to repay the bonds.
Distribution of those funds is controlled by the Munster Redevelopment Commission, which includes the five elected members of the Munster Town Council - John Edington, Dr. Andy Koultourides, David Nellans, John Reed and Joseph Simonetto - and Judith Florczak, a non-voting member of the School Town of Munster board.
DaVita Dialysis Center operates on the site’s northeast corner.
“Beginning in April, we will see the construction of a 100-room extended stay hotel on land north of the main building and in 2014 new professional and manufacturing businesses moving into the 1.2-million-square foot facility,” says DeGiulio
The Homewood Suites extended stay hotel will be managed by the same team as the adjacent sister hotel, Hampton Inn.
This will be a real positive, because it will give visitors and contracted employees working in industry a real choice, DeGiulio says.
Currently there are a number of out-of-town workers who are part of the BP construction project staying at the Hampton Inn. The new Homewood Suites will give them a choice, which will free up rooms for those visiting the area, he says.
There’s also amazing changes being made inside the original office building. Currently two doctors’ suites are occupying one-third of the finished 25,000 square feet.
Noodles and Meat Head are also planning to build on the out lots, DeGiulio says
In keeping with the town’s master plan design, all the exteriors reflect a consistent, high-quality motif with architectural accents. The entire heating/ventilation/air conditioning system throughout the facility has been upgraded.
High-efficiency gas-fired air exchange systems have been installed. The new mechanical system cuts heating and cooling costs by 60 percent.
The facility is being divided into different sized spaces as businesses require. There won't be interior space as in a mall, Simborg says.
The Lake Business Center plan is designed for the maximum amount of parking and green space, which is important for those businesses locating to the center and in keeping with the town's master plan, DeGiulio says.
Because the Lake Business Center is in Munster's TIF district, it is expected to bring in about $500,000 annually in TIF revenue. The town's diversified TIF district along Calumet Avenue, Ridge Road and 45th Street brings in between $4.7 million and $4.8 million in annual revenue that can be used for economic development.
"We're very fortunate in Munster to have this happen. Calumet Avenue is a growing and happening place," says Town Councilman David Nellans.