Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott promised when first running for mayor that he'd raze the crime-plagued River Park Apartments at an oxbow of the Little Calumet River by the Highland border.
After 13 years, a mass relocation of hundreds of residents, a few lawsuits, $20 million in spending, and the Great Recession that nearly ground new development to a halt, the move is now paying dividends.
McDermott and city officials gathered there Wednesday for a ribbon-cutting for a new $12.5 million Hampton Inn & Suites and the ground-breaking for a planned $12 million Holiday Inn Express that should open in spring of 2017. The Oxbow Landing development is also now home to a Buffalo Wild Wings, the Byway Brewing craft brewery and a class A office building under construction.
"It was a really smart campaign promise. I made it early," McDermott said. "I said I'm going to buy River Park Apartments if I become mayor. I said we're going to demolish it and make it economic development. We're going to make restaurants and hotels and things people really want to go to."
Ascent Hospitality just opened the 117-room, four-story Hampton Inn in Oxbow Landing.
"We're really pleased to introduce this Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton," Ascent Hospitality owner and developer Nash Patel said. "We're happy and take a lot of pride in being part of this community."
The new hotel will employ 22 people at the southeast corner of Kennedy Avenue and Interstate 80/94.
The hotel features a heated indoor pool, a business center and a 1,150-square-foot meeting space that can accommodate up to 85 people.
McDermott said it was gratifying to steer such a major redevelopment project to completion over 13 years.
"Most mayors don't stay around for 13 years," he said. "Most of them get wiped out. Most quit. Some of them die. This is Lake County, so some of them go to jail, let's just be honest."
The planned Holiday Inn Express will be about the same size and employ more than 20 workers. And ATG Real Estate Development LLC is looking to build a second office building to complement that 37,200-square-foot one that's been under construction there.