MICHIGAN CITY | This city's railroad industry was booming when its first neighborhood went up in the late 1800s.
Officials are now hoping to have an edge in marketing what's known as Elston Grove since the neighborhood revamped with casino money earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
"Michigan City's historic districts tell an important story and this story can be leveraged for economic revitalization," said Kurt Garner, a consultant hired by the city to prepare applying for the designation.
About $9 million in new streets, sidewalks, sewers and other improvements, like historic lighting and signage, were recently completed in a rebounding neighborhood that once was thriving.
Officials said 450 native trees were also planted in the area known for Victorian, Italiante and Craftsman homes built from 1860 to 1920.
City councilman Richard Murphy said the historic designation adds to the strategy for marketing Elston Grove, which has the South Shore Railroad running through it for passengers to get off and have a relatively short walk to Lake Michigan.
Another selling point is Elston Grove's proximity to the city's downtown area, which in recent years has undergone a still evolving yet noticeable restoration in terms of beautified storefronts and increased traffic.
Investors will receive incentives such as a 20-percent tax credit for rehabilitating homes at Elston Grove because of the neighborhood being on the registry.
"That's the marketing opportunity we have for Michigan City," said Murphy.
The historic designation also adds prestige to a neighborhood included in the downtown revitalization strategy.
"This has been our goal all along to revitalize and make this a neighborhood of choice," said Ken Behrendt, president of the city's redevelopment commission.
Murphy said the Franklin Street and Haskell-Barker historic districts have also applied for designation on the National Register.
Haskell and Barker are names associated with the early beginnings of the city's railroad car building industry.
"We've embraced a goal that says if you want to be a good place to visit you have to be a good place to live," said Murphy.