About 50 square miles in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties have been designated as qualified to become opportunity zones as part of a federal program to spur private investment in low-income areas.
Opportunity zones are based on U.S. Census tracts, and states are allowed to designate 25 percent of their low-income tracts as opportunity zones. In Indiana that meant 156 tracts.
The zones will provide tax incentives to people who invest in their development. Indiana's process for designating the zones included a review of more than 2,000 proposals by a five-person committee that made recommendations to Gov. Eric Holcomb's office. The 156 designated by the governor are located in 58 counties and include all or part of 83 municipalities. More than 500,000 residents live in the zones.
Each of the Region's three counties has at least one opportunity zone.
Lake County: The population in its 41.6 square miles of opportunity zones is 43,837; the land area is 41.6 square miles and the median poverty rate is 36.5 percent.
Gary will see opportunity zones stretch from the lakeshore south through significant portions of the city, including the Gary/Chicago International Airport; downtown around City Hall, Metro Center and the Genesis Center; down to the southwest quadrant of interstates 80/94 and 65; and into Miller's business district.
In Hammond, Opportunity Zones will stretch from the shore of Lake Michigan south through Wolf Lake and east through Lake George. Further south, zones will include a downtown swath of territory from the state line to the eastern city limit along the Grand Calumet River.
Opportunity zones continue in East Chicago, stretching north through the city including tracts on both sides of the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal extending to the city's lakeshore, including ArcelorMittal. In all three cities, South Shore Line stations are included in Opportunity Zones.
Porter County: The population in its 1.76 square-mile opportunity zone totals 2,466. It has a poverty rate of 26.6 percent. In Valparaiso, it includes an area between U.S. 30 on the south and Lincolnway and Joliet Road on the north, stretching from Hayes Leonard Road to Valparaiso University.
LaPorte County: The population in its three opportunity zones, covering 6.7 square miles, is 14,270, with a median poverty rate of 27.7 percent.
South Shore station-area opportunities exist in Michigan City, where zones stretch south from its lakeshore, including areas around Blue Chip Casino, the Lighthouse Place mall, and portions of downtown. LaPorte's opportunity zone covers territory roughly bounded by Lincolnway, Monroe Street and North Fail Road.