MICHIGAN CITY | City officials have taken a significant step toward opening what's viewed as sort of a dead end between the downtown and lakefront in an effort to continue revitalization efforts in the area.
Mayor Ron Meer said the city's Redevelopment Commission has acquired the building along U.S. 12 now occupied by The News-Dispatch.
The plan is to demolish The News-Dispatch facility in the spring and the police station behind it once the new police station on Michigan Boulevard opens possibly in 2016.
Both structures are among the buildings in the way of Franklin Street being extended straight to the lakefront or building a new road veering slightly west of Franklin Street to the water.
Some officials would also like to acquire the Michigan City Public Library, which stands directly in front of where Franklin Street ends at Fourth Street.
Franklin Street resumes on the other side of the library and if the library is torn down or moved both sections of Franklin Street can be joined, providing a direct route to the lake.
"It starts to really open up that corridor," Meer said.
The library, though, has remained steadfast in its refusal to sell.
The noticeable positive changes in recent years in the downtown, also known as the Uptown Arts District, has come by following a study that also calls for an easier or less confusing route to the lakefront on Franklin Street from places like Interstate 94.
Right now, visitors can get confused or discouraged by the turns and one way streets encountered getting to and from the lake across U.S. 12 and back onto Franklin Street to the interstate.
If the library doesn't sell, Meer said the roads could be reconfigured to provide a slightly angled route to the lake or a new road on city owned right-of-way beside the library.
"There's a lot of things you can do if you just get the right engineering and things in place and funding," Meer said.
Given the other surrounding attractions like Blue Chip Casino, city Councilman Richard Murphy said a connection of some sort could really generate the traffic needed for a full blown revitalization.
"We need to put these things into each other so they can take our city to the next level and feed off each other," Murphy said.