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City planner Jeff Speck to pitch ideas for downtown Hammond

Downtown Hammond.

The city planner, urban designer and best-selling author Jeff Speck will pitch ideas for sparking new life into downtown Hammond.

Speck, the author of "Walkable City: How Downtown Saves America, One Step at a Time," will give a talk titled "Transforming Downtown Hammond" from 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology gymnasium at 33 Muenich Court. People can enter through Door M.

Hammond plans to work with Speck on bringing positive change to the city's urban core, which could be stimulated by the upcoming South Shore West Lake Corridor Extension Project.

“This new transportation component in downtown adds strength to this area, which has struggled for years," Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said. "Having people looking to live downtown and make it their home is a game-changer for Hammond and the Region. We are thinking big and are already getting interest from developers."

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Hammond Director of Economic Development Anne Anderson said the city was doing well along the borders, up north by Chicago and along the Borman Expressway to the south. 

"The core of the city is a little challenged, as is common with smaller cities across the country," she said. "We're bringing in Jeff Speck, an author and lecturer who's been all over the country looking at walkability, liveability and creating spaces to walk around in. He's spent some time in downtown Hammond and loved it. He said it had great bones and many anchors vital to a downtown."

Something needs to be done about the Hammond downtown that was long ago a retail and entertainment mecca, Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Ryan said.

"We have 300,000 square feet of empty space downtown," he said. "We tried to bring the city hall downtown, but it will stay where it's at. New planners are coming in and hopefully some exciting things will come out of that."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.