Hobart going back to the future, focusing on Lake George

2013-02-24T00:00:00Z 2013-09-03T12:00:05Z Hobart going back to the future, focusing on Lake GeorgeBy Deborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

HOBART | The city's past and future continue to be linked to Lake George, Mike Adams said.

"It's kind of like going back to the future," Adams said. 

The lakefront, in the city's downtown district, played an integral part in Hobart's settlement in the 1800s and will continue to do so in the future.

"It's taking the best of historic Hobart's downtown and gently melding it with changes that have to happen," Adams said.

Adams, the Hobart Chamber of Commerce's executive director, also serves on a number of other city boards, including the Redevelopment Commission.

The lake is such a unique distinction that Adams is pushing for lakefront district to replace the word downtown.

"In the downtown study that was conducted, it was clear that the lakefront is the center of gravity. We need to shed the term downtown and call it the lakefront district," Adams said.

Adams sees Hobart, because of its unique lakefront, as becoming a draw as a future home for young professionals who work in Chicago but live in Hobart. 

His vision for the lakefront district includes transforming some historic buildings into condominiums where families can live and have a view of Lake George.

The families, who would live in two- or three-story condos, would be able to walk to downtown cafes, bistros or specialty shops.

"You'll see a subtle shift on Main Street with it becoming a significant artery and a subtle change of gravity toward the lakefront," Adams said.

To draw people to the downtown, city officials in recent years have held a number of special events on the lakefront, including a summer market and motorized miniature boat races.

"The boat races, which will be expanded next year, are something that have been received very well by the public," Adams said.

Other action that has proved positive to the downtown draw was City Council approval of the riverfront designation, Adams said.

Under the the Riverfront designation, qualifying restaurants and other businesses can apply for a three-way liquor license for $1,000.

That designation has had a positive effect on keeping one business open into the evening hours, Adams said.

Cafe 339 owners, who had formerly just served breakfast and lunch, signed on for the designation last year.

They are now able to serve cocktails and other specialty drinks with their newly expanded nighttime dinner menu, Adams said. 

"Let's bring things out at night. That's the way we want it to go," Adams said.

The former Hobart police station on Lake George also is being marketed with an eye toward it become a lakeside restaurant with glass walls for a beautiful lake view.

"We're helping promote that," Adams said.

City officials also are addressing an issue that came out in last year's downtown study which is the problem of those outside Hobart finding the community.

Starting this spring, officials will add new identification signage — with a new logo — that will help brand the city as unique, Adams said.

In addition, plans are under way to place  brick and steel sign column gateways at integral entryways to the city.

"The consultant firm we hired to work on the downtown study nailed it — you have to know where Hobart is," Adams said.

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