Lake County developing north and south

2011-02-27T00:00:00Z Lake County developing north and southBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com
February 27, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Development in Lake County is beginning to pick up steam, with blueprints placed on the shelf during the recession now working their way through local planning departments and other projects already breaking ground.

Many of those plans may receive an extra boost from Illinois' recent increase in personal and corporate income taxes, with Illinois residents now having more reason than ever to become Hoosiers, local Realtors said.

"You get the residents moving over the state line first, and then the businesses often follow as well when they see the benefits," said Jay Mayden, president of the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors.

Mayden said as the market picks up in the next couple of years, Northwest Indiana can expect to see more developments that are ambitious in scope and services offered.

One of those, Stone Terrace Village, to be located at the intersection of U.S. 231 and Interstate 65 in Crown Point, is working its way through the city's approval process.

The development will include 144 independent living units for seniors and 168 units for assisted living and skilled nursing.

It is being developed by Vanco Construction Services. Company owner Doug VanDerNoord recently told city planners talks are under way with the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago to operate the senior complex, including living units devoted to people with memory-related problems.

As developers again roll out big plans for major developments, groups such as the Lake County Economic Development Department have been pushing the housing recovery one home at a time. With funds from the Obama administration's stimulus program, the county agency is fighting the foreclosure scourge.

The department has bought 23 foreclosed homes in need of rehabilitation in Crown Point, Highland, Hobart and Merrillville, said Gene Krasoczka, department deputy director. Seven already have been completely rehabbed and brought up to code and are being sold to families.

"If we sell about 10 homes, we'll have that money coming in, and then we will go out and buy more homes and do more," Krasoczka said.

No one is expecting a return anytime soon to the halcyon home-building days in the middle of the past decade, at least not for a few years. But home-building in Lake County will tick up in 2011 and then gain increasing strength in subsequent years, said Dewey Pearman, executive director of the Construction Advancement Foundation.

Commercial development such as strip malls, medical clinics and other services also will take a few years to fully rebound, Pearman said.

However, some commercial projects put on the shelf during the recession again are being dusted off.

Developers currently are working with Schererville to get the Oak Street Commons lifestyle center off the ground. The site on the east side of U.S. 41 south of Omni 41 Health & Fitness Connection, was cleared several years ago, but a lagging economy put the lifestyle center plans on hold.

Now, developer Plum Creek Investments LLC said it is close to landing a major anchor tenant for the shopping center. It also hopes to resolve problems with pedestrian and bicycle access to the center, which is on one of the region's busiest thoroughfares.

Pearman also expects the recent increase in Illinois' personal income and corporate income to push development in Lake County.

"With the tax situation in Illinois, while it may take three or more years for commercial development to jump over the state line, I think the possibility of bringing people over from Illinois in 2011 or 2012 is a much more real opportunity," Pearman said. "I see more real opportunity there."

And after years of watching longingly as large retail developments were built in south Lake County only, the county's industrialized, northern cities now are landing some of the largest projects.

Home building retailer Menards this March will open a new $15 million store at the site of its former store in the Columbia Plaza on 165th Street in Hammond.

Just down the street, Praedium DevelopmentĀ  Corp. is rejuvenating the razed Woodmar shopping center by replacing it with a lifestyle center strip mall and outlots. The shopping center's anchor Carson Pirie Scott store will remain. Pradium Development also is rehabilitating Interstate Plaza, on the south side of Hammond, already completing a tear-down of part of the center and the complete refurbishing of the rest.

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