Munster has always tried to do things right

2013-04-28T00:00:00Z 2014-09-23T17:52:09Z Munster has always tried to do things rightThomas DeGiulio nwitimes.com
April 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Munster is proud of many things in its 106-year history as an incorporated community. We have been recognized as a community that has been well planned in terms of land uses, solid real estate values, an excellent school system and high levels of government service delivery.

These traits, in conjunction with a strong private sector, make Munster a premier location in which to live and do business.

These things do not just happen. From the time Munster was a small Dutch farm community to the present day, the residents of Munster have always demanded things to be done the right way.

The earliest evidence of thoughtful planning is depicted in the 1938 land use plan hanging in Town Hall. The early vision of the community is depicted. Over the ensuing decades, as the community grew and prospered, development followed the plan.

There have been several developments in recent years that are critical to the town’s long term economic well-being.

Community Hospital, which opened its doors to its first patients in 1973, has anchored the medical profession in Munster and Northwest Indiana. The hospital is part of the Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana. The foundation is also the parent company of St. Mary’s and St. Catherine’s hospitals.

Community Hospital, and the thousands of jobs for which it is directly responsible, has also been instrumental in attracting hundreds of other private medical offices to Munster to be near the hospital.

The Franciscan Alliance, the parent of St. Margaret Mercy Hospital, has had a larger presence in the town in recent years.

These developments will continue to keep Munster as the “medical capital” of Northwest Indiana.

In addition to the medical impact of Community Hospital, the Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana is also responsible for the construction and operation of The Center for Visual and Performing Arts on Ridge Road, Hartsfield Village and the Edward P. Robinson Veterans Memorial. These developments have all enhanced the quality of life of Munster and Northwest Indiana.

Munster is the home of one of the nation’s top bottling plants for PepsiCo. The plant moved to Munster from East Chicago in the 1960s. It is responsible for the production of a full line of Pepsi products, Aquafina water, and Gatorade. In addition to employing hundreds of people, the plant is the town’s largest water user and one of the largest taxpayers.

The town’s relationship with the School Town of Munster has been outstanding and mutually beneficial. Local government’s support of a community’s school system is as important as making sure the services we are responsible for are delivered.

In addition to sharing the use of facilities, the town’s Redevelopment Commission contributed $500,000 of tax increment financing revenues toward the installation of infrastructure for the one-to-one computer program. The two organizations also share a joint telecommunications system. These and other joint efforts save the taxpayers money and enhance service delivery.

As the town approached the 21st century, redevelopment became a larger focus of the elected officials and their boards and commissions.

The town identified a number of major private and public redevelopment projects and started a funding mechanism by establishing its first tax increment financing district. The early success of the TIF district has allowed the town to undertake millions of dollars in public improvements and started several redevelopment projects on Calumet Avenue from the north to Centennial Park and Munster Steel.

Future work of the Redevelopment Commission includes securing funding for part of the 45th Street/Calumet Avenue grade separation. All of these redevelopment projects are funded with funds generated by taxes paid in the TIF business district, not by residential properties.

Of all the redevelopment projects undertaken by the town to date, none has been as important as the transformation of the former National Brick Co. strip mining operation and landfill into the award-winning Centennial Park.

In the mid-1960s, the town was faced with the shutdown of the brick company that opened its door in 1905, two years before the town was incorporated. A large portion of the land had been used as a landfill since 1905. The town purchased 140 acres of the property in 1968.

In the early 1990s, the Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana donated the land where the brick factory was located and the 40-acre lake to the east. By 2004, the landfill area had been filled. By 2007, all but the 40-acre lake was transformed into Centennial Park. This doubled the amount of useable park land to 400 acres for our community.

The future of Centennial Park will include the opening of the 40-acre Clayhole Lake to fishing and canoeing. This 220-acre recreation facility will be a lasting legacy of the community’s longer term “vision of what could be.”

Munster has had a great past, and the future holds even more promise. Munster truly is an example of what's right with the region!

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