Munster unlocking economic opportunities

2012-02-26T00:00:00Z Munster unlocking economic opportunitiesBy Lu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 26, 2012 12:00 am  • 

MUNSTER | Economic development continues to unlock opportunities in Munster.

Throughout 2011, redevelopment activities changed the face of commercial areas along Calumet Avenue. This includes the Munster Shops by Boyer Properties Inc. and the Lake Business Center by Simborg Development.

Revenue from the Munster tax increment financing district -- which extends along Calumet Avenue, Ridge Road and 45th Street -- helps fuel this development, said Town Manager Tom DeGiulio.

A portion of the property taxes paid by businesses in that district is returned by the state to the Munster Redevelopment Commission. Those funds are then used to benefit the TIF district and areas immediately adjacent.

TIF funds and the town's A credit rating from Standard & Poors also allow Munster to sell economic development bonds to finance various projects and infrastructure improvements. Bond issues in 2010 and 2011 are helping finance the two major Calumet Avenue projects.

On May 16, the 4,000-square foot Panera Bread Restaurant that anchors the Munster Shops opened at 8201 Calumet Ave.

"Officials at Panera said this is the best opening in the Chicago area. It astounded them," DeGiulio said.

The Munster Shops project has been a catalyst for change on Calumet Avenue, he said

Two Munster Shops buildings will house up to nine small businesses with 1,440 to 2,460 square feet each. Occupancy of the first Munster Shops building is nearly complete.

In December, crews demolished the old office building on Calumet Avenue between Dunkin' Donuts and the new Munster Shops that paves the way for the project's final phase.

Construction of the second Munster Shops building has begun. The second building will feature different but complementary brick facades, Boyer said.

Another major redevelopment project is transforming the former Simmons Mattress plant at Calumet Avenue and Fran-Lin Parkway into the Lake Business Center.

Developer Mitch Simborg plans the $60 million renovation of the 72-acre site to include more than 100,000 square feet of prime office space and more than 900,000 square feet of manufacturing/warehouse/distribution space.

DaVita Dialysis Center recently opened at the site's northeast corner. A Homewood Suite Extended Stay Hotel will be built next to the Hampton Inn.

In December, Munster officials purchased 11 acres within the Lake Business Center using $962,500 from the 2011 bond issue to hold for a future train station.

TIF funds also are being used for the landfill gas-to-energy project that will collect methane gas and convert it into electricity at Centennial Park. Additional funding came from two grants from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Munster plans to sell the power generated at Centennial Park back to NIPSCO at the company's renewable feed-in tariff rate for biomass projects, DeGiulio said.

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