Lake Street, the main commercial corridor in Gary's Miller neighborhood, will undergo two more seasons of construction that merchants will have to endure.
The city plans to widen Lake Street all the way from the South Shore Line Station to Miller Beach to add space for bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks this summer, with the work continuing into 2020.
Construction between 7th Avenue, near the entrance to the lakefront neighborhood off East Dunes Highway, and 3rd Avenue will start in June. Work from 3rd Avenue to the lakeshore will pick up next year.
The construction on the commercial corridor will affect a number of businesses, including restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, a craft brewery taproom, a cafe, banks, real estate offices, a health food store and convenience and liquor stores, many of which depend upon the summer tourism season when people flock to Miller Beach.
Gary Director of Redevelopment and Planning Joe Van Dyk said the alleys that run parallel to Lake Street will first be paved to let commerce survive in the Miller section's downtown during the extended period of construction. Lake Street will end up with new bike lanes, wider sidewalks and parallel parking, with the same traffic flow of one lane north and one lane south as now.
The city plans to tear down the abandoned Ming Ling restaurant and a neighboring building to put in more public parking, since the switch from angled parking spaces to parallel parking spaces will reduce the total number of spaces along Lake Street.
Miller Business Association President George Rogge said business owners have concerns about how quickly shoppers and diners will adapt to the change to parallel parking. They also worry about another season of construction after last year's roadwork.
"It's going to be a mess while it's going on," he said. "But when it's done, it should be beautiful."