GARY | The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission is updating and integrating the Marquette Plan that was organized in two phases in 2005 and 2008.
More than two dozen residents of the city’s Miller section attended a presentation Monday on this effort called Indiana’s Lakefront Reinvestment Strategy at the Woodson branch of the Gary Public Library. They also took the opportunity to provide written comments about the Marquette Plan’s original proposed projects.
Originally outlined in 1985 on a restaurant napkin by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, the Marquette Plan calls for scores of infrastructure, restoration and recreational projects that stretch along the shores of Lake Michigan in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties, said Kathy Luther, NIRPC environmental director.
“The Marquette Plan is a vision and a strategy,” Luther said. “This is not a plan to be left on a shelf. We need to continue to make it relevant.”
However, Luther said, some of the projects in the original Marquette Plan's initial phases have not been started because of regulatory changes, property ownership issues, “no money, no political will” and, most importantly, the lack of someone to champion the cause.
“Towns and cities should define their niche,” she said about how some communities have successful revitalization efforts while others don’t.
Luther said the goals of this integration include building a better website so that area residents and others can easily access information about the status of projects in the three-county area, and building a general information systems database and creating a new framework for emphasizing the cultural and historic legacy of the area.
“What we are doing is putting multiple horses in harness, trying to leverage funds that are available,” she said.
Putting together grants and tax credits for restoring and repurposing historic areas is one major way to get projects off the ground, said Tiffany Tolbert of Indiana Landmarks in Miller.
“You as citizens need to remind those who can get funding that something needs to be done here,” she said.
Jack Eskin, NIRPC regional planner, revisited Gary’s projects that were originally listed in the 2005 Marquette Plan documents.
Few have been accomplished because projects have shifted focus, political administrations have changed and industries have returned or expanded in the area the Marquette Plan targeted, he said.
Among those parts of projects that are currently ongoing include the Gary Chicago International Airport runway expansion, Eskin said.
“There are strong efforts for mixed-use development in the area,” he said. “Marquette Park (renovation) was not in the Marquette Plan, but it is in the spirit of the plan.”
A number of Miller residents complained about the inaccessibility of Marquette Park.
“My wife and I went there to get photos of a sunset and the Gary police told us we’d have to leave, that the park was closing,” said Wayne Randall. “The gates to the parking lots are closed and locked in the evening.”