HIGHLAND | Redevelopment and revitalization are common threads woven through Highland's immediate past, present and future.
Michael Griffin has a unique feel for the fabric of progress in Highland as the town's longtime clerk-treasurer.
The most significant revitalization was the retrofit and reconstruction of the Lincoln Center, said Griffin, who recently received the Russell J. Lloyd Distinguished Service Award.
The two-year renovation concluded last year with an almost completely rebuilt center, which sports the old field house and new facilities, including a fitness center, banquet hall, dance room, meeting rooms, classrooms, offices and a day care center.
Last year also saw work begin on a new Culver's restaurant to replace a vacant gas station at Ridge Road and Cline Avenue.
Griffin also noted that Team Toyota left for Schererville — but Volkswagen of Orland Park is becoming Volkswagen of Highland as it moves into the same spot on Indianapolis Boulevard.
"We're especially proud that Strack & Van Til decided to invest here" by building their corporate headquarters in town, said Griffin, who has been Highland's clerk-treasurer for 21 years.
He noted that Strack's positive impact will be even bigger since it recently acquired Ultra Foods, Town & Country Food Market, Wise Way Foods and Pay Low Foods.
Griffin said Highland also is committed to existing businesses as the downtown facade program continues to grow. Traditions Restaurant and Apex Construction have beautiful new exteriors and Les Brothers Restaurant & Pancake House hopes to renovate its facade this year.
"I believe the (Town) Council is committed to continuing their record of public improvement" this year, Griffin said.
The council is talking about building a new public safety center, which would mean a new home for the Police and possibly the Fire Department, Griffin said.
"I expect they will continue the work of improving the stormwater and wastewater systems through the sanitary district."
Looking beyond the new year, Griffin said the Redevelopment Commission will continue revitalizing and improving the town.
It will work to ensure that businesses stay in Highland by nurturing a favorable business climate, Griffin said.
A natural complement to this is recruiting new businesses for Highland, he said.
Griffin noted that Highland is 102 years old, which means that redevelopment is needed to keep the town fresh and vital.
Areas that are underdeveloped need to be developed — and already developed areas need help to "make them new."
Further into the future, residents might see a retrofitting or reconstruction of the existing Town Hall, Griffin said.
Recreation may also get royal treatment in the coming years, Griffin said, as the town's bike trail might be connected to Wicker Park, which connects to Hammond. This would help create an unbroken bike path stretching from Crown Point to Chicago, Griffin said. It will be made possible by the demolition of the old Community Bridge on the boulevard north of Ridge Road.
New businesses might sprout along the lowered road that is replacing the bridge, Griffin said.