Portage Mall project could be in jeopardy

2014-04-24T20:42:00Z 2014-04-24T22:23:05Z Portage Mall project could be in jeopardyJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | A $2.5 million project to improve the Portage Mall may be in jeopardy.

The city's Redevelopment Commission voted down a motion Wednesday to continue the project as now proposed. Members Sue Lynch and Steve Nelson voted in favor or moving ahead with the project. Mayor James Snyder, Greg Lach and John Cannon voted against moving forward.

The discussion on the project, which would improve the parking lot, extend Vivian Street to the north and add parking for the Portage Little League fields, began when Snyder expressed concerns about maintenance of the area.

Presently there is a business improvement district on the far south side of the mall comprised of three property owners and the city. Fees are collected that are used for area maintenance.

Snyder said the area is not being maintained by the BID board.

For the larger project, the BID must be expanded by the City Council and property owners within the expanded district must agree to be in the district. In addition, those property owners must agree to donate rights of way or easements to allow for the $2.5 million in improvements.

Economic development adviser John Shepherd said that all but one property owner has donated the necessary easements and rights of way. Also, all but that same property owner has agreed to join the BID.

Snyder said he was concerned about the effectiveness of the BID and the commission investing that kind of money into a project that may not be maintained properly.

Both Lynch and Nelson argued that the improvements are necessary to complete the city's downtown revitalization efforts and to make property on the east side of the mall, owned by the city, attractive for development.

Snyder said he wants the project divided into phases, allowing for the Little League parking and extension of Vivian Street, but delaying work on the western half until he was assured it would be maintained.

Nelson had concerns about the cost of breaking the project into two phases, saying it could be more costly in the long run.

Commission members said discussion will continue at their May meeting once cost projects have been obtained and a chance is given for the current BID and City Council to meet to develop a maintenance plan.

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