Munster continues redevelopment of north Calumet Avenue

2013-04-24T00:00:00Z Munster continues redevelopment of north Calumet AvenueBy LuAnn Franklin nwitimes.com
April 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Moving her specialty children's shoe store to Munster Shops on Calumet Avenue has helped increase the visibility of Big ‘N Little Shoes, say owner Millie Gabrys.

A part of Munster's retail community since 1950, Big ‘N Little Shoes moved to 8141 Calumet Ave. from Harrison Square Mall on Sept. 26.

“People think we're a new store,” Gabrys says of the store she's owned for 14 years. “There's more traffic. It's a vibrant place to be.”

The owners of Frozen Yogurt Express, known fondly as Froyo, also see a bright future at the east Calumet Avenue’s newest business development.

Known for its bargain cone specials, Froyo recently moved from the 200-square foot brick walk-up store at 8313 Calumet Avenue – home since 1996 – to its new 1,800-square foot digs in the Munster Shops at 8207 Calumet Ave. Neighbors include Five Guys and Chipotle.

“We’re adding cakes and a hot new tangy yogurt from California. We’ll be bigger and badder, but will retain the original flavors that have made Froyo so popular in Munster,” says owner Bob Schwebke.

Schwebke’s wife, Linda, will be in charge of designing and producing custom-made ice cream and yogurt cakes, from 8-inch to sheet sized, that will populate the massive walk in freezers installed in the store.

In addition to the walk-up window that made Froyo a region favorite, the new location has a temperature-controlled indoor space that can be converted into an outdoor space at the push of a button. This allows Frozen Yogurt Express to be open year-around.

“You have sun, AC and frozen treats at a walk up window,” Schwebke says. “We’re offering the best of an indoor restaurant outdoors.”

Firehouse Subs, a franchise owned by Jerry and Lynn Stanek, is another popular destination at Munster Shops. The eatery at 8153 Calumet Ave. features a mural of the new Munster Fire Department truck as well as the Munster High School stadium.

That firehouse theme is evident in the architectural design of building's exterior, which made it ideal for this restaurant.

Munster Shops by Bruce Boyer of Boyer Properties Inc. of Highland has transformed the former Carpetland site and been a catalyst for change on Calumet Avenue, says Tom DeGiulio, Munster town manager.

Boyer purchased the site in January 2008. Later that year the economy began a downturn and put the project on hold for more than two years.

In 2010, the Munster Redevelopment Commission, which is composed of all members of the Town Council, approved the sale of Economic Development Bonds Series 2010 as part of the financing for the project's development by Boyer. Munster sold $5.285 million in Economic Development Bonds to help finance the project and other infrastructure improvements.

Boyer Properties received $4.5 million of the bond money for the project, and is financing the remaining 60% of the $10.5 million costs. Another $205,000 of the bond sale revenue is being used for public improvements, and the balance will fund the debt reserve and cover the costs of issuance.

The bonds' principal and interest will be repaid only with money generated by the Munster tax increment financing (TIF) district. That means that other commercial properties within the TIF district help support other commercial development.

No property taxes will be used to service the bond debt, DeGiulio says. The bonds will be repaid by July 15, 2030.

The nearly 4,000-square foot Panera Restaurant with drive-thru anchors the development's north end at 8201 Calumet Ave. Opened on May 16, 2011, the restaurant draws regulars and new customers.

“Officials at Panera said this is the best opening in the Chicago area. It astounded them,” DeGiulio says.

Now that Munster Shops has established a new standard for north Calumet Avenue development, town officials are looking to redevelop the west side of this major thoroughfare that carries motorists to and from Hammond and the I-80/94 Expressway, according to DeGiulio.

“We are working with Bruce Boyer on this redevelopment of Calumet Avenue, south of Broadmoor,” he says. “The design is being worked on and will be available this year.”

DeGiulio says town officials “expect the same quality of buildings” as in Munster Shops. However, the footprint will be different because of the depth of property on that side of Calumet Avenue.

“There will be duplex office buildings, with more parking on the sides,” DeGiulio says. “The buildings will be up front on the lots and there will be parking in the back. This redevelopment will continue the look of the Munster Shops north and south along Calumet Avenue.”

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