Work to pick up on Whiting lakefront project this spring

2013-03-02T19:58:00Z 2013-03-04T00:40:05Z Work to pick up on Whiting lakefront project this springChelsea Schneider Kirk, (219) 933-3241

WHITING | Work on Whiting's lakefront transformation is expected to pick up this month with a boardwalk, bike path and fishing pier taking shape through July.

The features are among the final improvements to the lakeshore, funded, in part, by a $19.5 million grant from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. The total project will cost approximately $47 million, according to Bob Kark, city economic development director.

“(The RDA) is funding the accessibility to the lake, the boardwalk, the shoreline, and those types of things,” Kark said. “What they are not funding is like repairs to the pavilion. They're not funding the gazebo.”

Plans for the boardwalk call for a pedestrian path and a bike path to run alongside it. The bike path will run throughout the park, extending west to Whihala Beach. Railings also will be installed for people to stop and prop themselves up while walking near the lake.

“By July 4, everyone should see the bike path and railings in,” Kark said. “Everything will be done along the lakeshore for the most part.”

A new 300-foot fishing pier also should be complete by July. Last year, the support pilings for the fishing pier were installed, but as the lake thaws, the deck will be finished. Approximately 150 feet of the pier will extend over the lake to a water depth of about 17 feet.

After Labor Day, focus will turn to the park's entrances. The project will widen and add turn lanes to the Front Street entrance to the park, and a bike path will run through the 117th Street entrance, Kark said.

Next year, the “final touches” will be made at the park, Kark said. A gazebo will be built to serve as an additional entertainment venue that the city hopes people might use for weddings. The positioning of the gazebo will feature the Chicago skyline as a backdrop.

Kark said a final decision on the former Gun Club building is still being made. He said the historical club may be gutted and renovated to serve another purpose.

The city hopes to attract a restaurant to the lakefront and is closely following legislation at the Indiana General Assembly that would allow the city access to more liquor licenses for restaurants within three blocks of Lake Michigan.

Currently, the city has five liquor licenses and has four proposals for those licenses.

“If four more people come, we'll basically have to say we only have one license available, and we'll have to pick and choose,” Stahura said. “This would allow us to continue growth.”

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