SCHERERVILLE - Crown Point Mayor David Uran had plenty of good news to share about his city Friday with the members of the Lake County Achievement Committee, placing the credit for the improvements on his team of administrators.
"When we succeed, it's the team that succeeds," Uran said. "When we fail, it's the mayor."
Uran said the city has had about $144 million in new investments in the city this year, about half of that in new housing and the other half in commercial and industrial development. It's the kind of investment that has seen the city's property tax rate decrease in recent years as the overall assessed value of the city has increased to about $1.7 billion.
"We are always moving forward. We've reinvested as a city and the businesses have reinvested. We are a better city. I tell people, if we can make your property worth more today that before, we are doing our job."
The city has averaged 200 new homes a year for the last 10 years and expects to have a population of about 45,000 by the 2020 census. To attract people and businesses to the city, Crown Point is building Bulldog Park near the downtown. Uran said the $11 million project will include a hockey arena and other amenities and provide more space to hold events in the downtown, which he called "the heartbeat of the city."
Rather than attract "big box" retail stores, which can hurt local businesses, Crown Point invested in sports tourism with the 95-acre Sportsplex on the east side.
"When the economy tanked 10 years ago, we saw that sports was still growing," he said. "That's our big box."
He said the project to add bumpouts at the corners around the square to improve pedestrian safety and the addition of handicapped ramps in other areas downtown are an example of the city using grants and federal funds to take tax money paid by other states to help the city.
"We have debt. I'm not going to hide that," he said adding the total debt is about $25 million. "But it was the right thing to do."
He compared it to the owner of a $100,000 house spending about $2,000 to maintain the home or improve it because the debt is about 2 percent of the city's assessed value. The city invested it in things like bringing in water and dealing with flooding and sewer problems. The city plans to add three more water tanks, doubling the storage capacity, so it can buy the water during off-peak times and save money.
Uran said his family is part of the traffic problem in the city. He said his family used to have two drivers and two cars. Now, with four grown children, it's six cars and drivers. That kind of increased traffic is leading to a $25 million investment in the widening of 109th Avenue from Broadway to the Interstate 65 interchange. In the city's agreement with I-65 Beacon Hill Partners, the developers promise at least $100 million in new investment in that corridor, which will enable the city to recoup its share of the cost through tax increment financing funds.
Finally, he said the city is planning construction of a new $12 million city hall and police station, which is expected to start in 2019. He praised U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., for helping get funding for many of the city's projects, saying Crown Point is usually first in line when money is available "and we use it."
"The city is being reimagined while maintaining its historic heritage," said Cal Bellamy, LCAC emcee for Friday's luncheon gathering at Teibel's.