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Local banks renew pledge to invest in transit-oriented development
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Local banks renew pledge to invest in transit-oriented development

Local banks pledge to invest in transit-oriented development by South Shore Line stations

A First Financial Bank branch in downtown Highland is shown. First Financial and other banks have pledged to finance transit-oriented development by South Shore Line stations.

Five local banks have renewed pledges to finance transit-oriented development near South Shore Line stations in conjunction with the Double Track and West Lake extension projects.

Horizon Bank, Peoples Bank, First Financial Bank, 1st Source Bank and Centier Bank have pledged two years ago to try to collectively lend up to $25 million for new development that would enhance the quality of life in Northwest Indiana. The banks have reiterated their support as work on the project begins. 

“Northwest Indiana has a game-changing opportunity to capitalize on the expansion of the South Shore rail line,” said Mike Schneider, commercial market president at First Financial Bank. “There is an exciting, ambitious vision for the future of Northwest Indiana that no single municipality, or business, or economic concern can drive on their own. Collaboration is key and to that end, it is our hope that our bank group can be leaders for mutually beneficial partnerships.”

The Cincinnati-based financial institution has several Northwest Indiana locations, including in Gary, Hammond, Highland, Schererville and Crown Point. It was recognized for its investment and service in lower-income census tracts under the Community Reinvestment Act over the last four years.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Opportunities Council, a sister organization of One Region that consists of CEOs in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties, is spearheading the effort.

“Sometimes developers have great ideas and comprehensive plans backed by capital and they need some additional funds to get their project off the ground. This loan program assists qualified developers to begin construction," said Marie Foster-Bruns, president and CEO of One Region. “During the pandemic, we all learned the importance of being connected. These emerging walkable downtown communities in Northwest Indiana will connect people and regional assets more than ever before. These NIROC banks understand the significance of high-quality projects along the South Shore rail line, which is why they continue to focus on this financing together.”

Go on patrol with Aaron Crawford, a Cpl. with the Lowell Police Department, as he speaks about joining the force, DUI enforcement grants, and police Jiu-jitsu training.

The hope is to create walkable communities within a quarter-mile of the South Shore Line train stations, to attract residents who could commute to work in Chicago.

“This effort is about sharing the risk, which may be more significant than what a single bank is willing to take on, and therefore collaboration helps spread the risk over a greater number of banks," Horizon Bank CEO Craig Dwight said.

The loan program will aim to create more population density around the train stations, increasing access to high-paying jobs and bringing in new residents. Three of the five participating banks are headquartered in Northwest Indiana, and another is just a county east of the Region in South Bend.

“The developments financed by this initiative will bring about economic growth, new opportunities and thriving communities, and we’re proud to have a hand in making that progress possible,” said Matt Vessely, 1st Source Bank West Region president.

Chris Campbell, executive vice president and senior partner at Centier Bank, said the projects could have a transformative effect on Northwest Indiana.

“Centier strongly believes in vibrant city cores as being the heart and soul of the community. Mixed-use development in tandem with schools, employers, and not for profits enhances the quality of life in the Region for all," he said. "The size and scope of projects and what it means to be a hometown community bank call us to work together to make the Region a great place to call home for generations to come.”

Anyone interested in accessing capital for a transit-oriented development should contact Foster-Bruns at marie@oneregionnwi.org.

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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