MERRILLVILLE — The Town Council has signed off on second business to move into a near-empty retail center on the north side.
The council granted a special exception for Forman Mills to open at Crossroads Plaza, 6110 Broadway.
The council granted approval in late January for Trader Buck’s Flea Markets to open in the plaza.
“There are huge empty spaces in that building, and what we’re attempting to do is fill those with retail users that complement what’s still there,” said Richard Anderson, an attorney representing Crossroads' owner.
Anderson told town officials that Forman Mills, a clothing retailer, will be occupying about 50,000 square feet in the shopping center.
He did not know when the company might make the move.
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Forman Mills, which has locations in Lansing and the Chicago area, sells clothing, shoes, toys and home goods.
The company, founded in 1977, began as a flea market and has grown to become a nationwide warehouse retailer, according to its website. It is based in Pennsauken, New Jersey.
The company would employ about 100 people once the building opens, Anderson said.
Trader Buck’s has lease in place for 30,000 square feet in the plaza. Plans are for it to open in May.
Trader Buck’s, which was started in 2007 in Lafayette, has eight stores in Indiana. It offers a low-cost opportunity for people wanting to start a business by renting and operating booths in the market, according to its website.
Crossroads Plaza has been largely vacant for years, so bringing in businesses could help revitalize the area, said Sheila Shine, the town’s Planning and Building director.
Anderson previously said leasing space in the plaza has been challenging. Potential tenants have shown interest in the site, but proposals didn’t materialize.
“It’s a problem renting space and it’s a problem getting good tenants,” he said.
Variance-of-use requests needed to be approved before businesses can operate in the plaza. That’s because the land for Crossroads Plaza is zoned industrial.
Anderson said the town gave the land an industrial designation in 2018 at his client’s request.
“The thought was that we could attract industrial users, tear down the entire plaza and build industrial buildings like you see in Hobart,” he said. “That has obviously not occurred.”
The town has the option to revert the land back to commercial zoning. That hasn’t occurred because Merrillville is updating its zoning maps as it works on a new comprehensive plan.
Several council members, including Shawn Pettit and Leonard White, said they favored returning the property to commercial zoning.