A massive project could start the revitalization of a long-polluted site in East Chicago with a three-million-square-foot industrial center that could bring up to 4,000 jobs and $200 million in investment, along with a 200-acre nature preserve.
The proposed East Chicago Logistics Center, dubbed Project Phoenix by economic development officials, would start out with a one-million-square-foot building that would be the largest new industrial building in Northwest Indiana. Officials hope the project will ultimately lead to an industrial redevelopment of the nearby former West Calumet Housing Complex, which was evacuated because of concerns about lead poisoning.
East Chicago Gateway Partners, a collaboration between a New Jersey-based industrial developer and a California-based environmental remediation firm, is pursuing the project, Lake County Economic Alliance President and CEO Karen Lauerman said.
"It will be a transformational development in the community," she told a business crowd at a Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Dynasty Banquets in Hammond Thursday.
Developers are taking over the former DuPont site by the east branch of the Grand Calumet River where more than 23,307 cubic yards of soil contaminated with metals have been removed as part of an ongoing cleanup, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Nature Conservancy will take over 200 acres of the site to become a nature preserve.
"East Chicago Gateway Partners will take the other 200 acres of the brownfield site and take an environmentally integrated approach to remediation before building a one million square-foot spec building, or speculative building without tenants ready to go," she said. "The groundwork is already underway."
The goal is to break ground on the building in 2022 and have it ready for businesses to move in by 2023.
Purdue University Northwest Director of Economic Development Don Babcock said it would be the largest new industrial building in Northwest Indiana, nearly double the size of a 576,000-square-foot building at AmeriPlex at the Port in Portage.
"One of these building would be twice as large as any other of its type in Northwest Indiana," he said.
Plans call for constructing another two million square feet of industrial and logistics space on the site. Once built out, it likely would involve an investment of $160 million to $200 million and employ 3,000 to 4,000 people.
"It's a huge thing for East Chicago as far as jobs, investment and cleaning up the area along Kennedy there," Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Ryan said. "It's a wonderful project for East Chicago. It brings the potential of so many jobs."
The project was discussed at a Lakeshore Chamber function that featured a panel discussion of economic development that include Interim Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Staton. Officials touted the importance of working together, such as on landing the new Domino's facility that's coming to Merrillville.
"Thanks to NIPSCO and other supporters we were able to get a suite for the NCAA Tournament," Staton said. "It turned out two of the Domino's executives were big Michigan fans. We were able to wine and dine them and convinced them Indiana was the best place for them to grow their business."