MICHIGAN CITY | It's more than just the opening of another Kohl's — it's the start of a resurrection of the long-blighted Dunes Plaza, once a bustling destination, officials say.
Commitments also are being negotiated with several other retail stores to go up where the long vacated Cinema and other adjacent businesses used to stand next to the new Kohl's.
"We're going to be filling up a vacant cavity that basically was pretty much abandoned," Mayor Ron Meer said.
Kohl's is now open at the site of the former Hobby Lobby and, prior to that, Kmart.
"My hope would be by next summer the entire complex will be filled by new retail and possibly a restaurant," Meer said.
Many people feel a comeback of Dunes Plaza will bring more traffic to an already busy retail district on the south side of the city and draw more customers to the long struggling Marquette Mall just across U.S. 20 to the north.
Ann Dahm, president of the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce, said revitalizing Dunes Plaza is significant.
"We're certainly excited. It's going to bring jobs and opportunity," Dahm said.
Craig Phillips, the city's planning director, said T.J. Maxx and Roth's will go in on each side of the Kohl's building early in 2014.
"We feel very strongly the improvements that are being made to the Dunes Plaza project will hopefully serve as a catalyst for revitalization and redevelopment of the whole U.S. 20 corridor," Phillips said.
"It's a very big deal," he said.
Phillips said plans call for a new building to go up where the Cinema and strip mall next to it used to be.
Meer also revealed plans to expand Dunes Plaza to the south depending on the success of the redevelopment currently transpiring.
"It has lots of potential," Meer said.
Despite its strengths, Phillips said there are other areas of the south side commercial district needing improvement, and he feels a reinvigorated Dunes Plaza can give those areas a face-lift as well.
"This project definitely represents a substantial improvement, and we hope to see more of that as a result," Phillips said.