Whiting works on lakefront project, attracting visitors

2013-02-24T00:00:00Z Whiting works on lakefront project, attracting visitorsBy Chelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

WHITING | Turning Whiting into a destination location is the goal of Mayor Joe Stahura, as the city's lakefront development project and new baseball stadium spur future growth.

“We are realistic enough to think or to understand that we probably won't attract people for a week or 10 days, but it's definitely a place to stop for a day or two to enjoy the lakeshore, to enjoy the water sports, to enjoy the beach, to possibly visit our museums,” Stahura said.

Multiple high-end restaurants have approached the city and a lakefront hotel is in the works. The city also hopes to gain funding by summer to begin construction of a Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Museum on the east end of town.

The city's massive lakefront project along the shores of Lake Michigan also is seeing progress.

The city is now in the boardwalk phase of its lakefront project, which received a $19.4 million grant from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. When the phase is complete, the lakefront will feature a two-tier boardwalk along the shoreline, new trails, a 300-foot fishing pier and a nature area, Stahura said.

Stahura said while the RDA grant will fund the larger aspects of the project, local money was used for the Oil City Stadium and bike trails.

Planning also will begin this year on the total reconstruction of Indianapolis Boulevard through Whiting, with the project expected to go out to bid in 2014.

“It will take our main state highway through the community and really set the table for future commercial development along the corridor,” Stahura said. “Right now the opportunities aren't there because of the configuration of the road.”

Stahura said the city also is working with BP on a large-scale office development, which may have future phases approved.

“It has a lot of potential to anchor all our recreational amenities we were lucky enough to put in place over the last couple of years and over the next year,” Stahura said of the BP project. “It would be a significant improvement to not only our tax base but to the landscape of the whole community.”

The lower floors of the Whiting Community Center will be reconstructed in 2013 to separate children and adult activities. The city also likely will start working on a new administration building for the lakefront and move personnel to the space to further enhance park operations.

As for museums, Stahura said the city has been approached by the Chicago Baseball Museum interested in looking for space in the community and a developer interested in creating a National Mascot Hall of Fame.

“It's a project that fits the Whiting mold really good because Pierogi Fest has a whacky theme,” Stahura said. “ We have our own mascots there, and a mascots hall of fame certainly would be a cool thing to land.”

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